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When Your Child Has Type 1 Diabetes

If your child suddenly grows weak, tired, and nauseated, the youngster probably has the flu or some other virus. But the symptoms could also be warning signs of type 1 diabetes.

Although there's no cure for type 1 diabetes, the disease can be managed.

Don't blame yourself

Parents need to know that they have done nothing wrong and that there is nothing they could have done that could have prevented type 1 diabetes from occurring. Genetics are thought to play a role in the development of this disease, but it's believed a virus or another factor triggers its onset.

Do your research

Learn about the disease and its management. After a diagnosis, work closely with your health care provider to learn about the disease and create an effective management plan.

Treatment involves insulin injections up to several times a day and monitoring of blood sugar levels during the day. The levels are checked by pricking an approved area of skin and placing a drop of blood on a special paper that is then drawn into the meter. The meter reads a color change on the paper and calculates the blood sugar level. The level is displayed on the meter’s screen.

Make a plan

Create an effective diet and exercise regimen. Managing blood sugar levels is vital to the treatment of type 1 diabetes. In addition to insulin, food and exercise are key elements of diabetes control. Daily blood sugar monitoring will tell you if your child is experiencing low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) or high blood sugar (hyperglycemia).

To maintain steady sugar levels, a child with type 1 diabetes should eat a well-balanced diet with enough calories to prevent hypoglycemia, but not enough calories to cause an excessive and abnormal increase in blood glucose.

Children with diabetes should engage in normal childhood activities, but exercise combined with insulin can make sugar levels fall. To prevent this, have a regular meal schedule and keep in mind that your child may need an extra snack before exercising. A child with type 1 diabetes may also require snacks throughout the day to maintain balanced sugar levels. If sugar levels do dip, the child may need to drink fruit juice or soda immediately.

Include your child

Involve the child in the treatment process. Allowing the child to participate as much as he or she can helps build a youngster's self-confidence.

Be a positive advocate for your child

Some school-age children with diabetes may need special accommodations during the school day. If you need help working with the school system, local parent support groups, through organizations, such as the American Diabetes Association, can refer you to resources that can assist you. Depending on the severity of your child's diabetes, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Civil Rights Act may be able to provide additional support for your child's educational needs.  

Stay up to date

Ask your doctor about new treatment options. Insulin injections can now be given with a pen or wand-like instrument, making the process easier and quicker.

Newer glucose monitors require a smaller blood sample, are easier to use, and store data that can be downloaded to a computer for evaluation or presentation to your doctor. With some newer machines, blood may be obtained from areas other than the fingertips. All meters are different, so be certain to check the owner's manual before using it.