6 things to know about kids and diabetes

6 things to know about kids and diabetes

As a parent, learning all you can about diabetes is one of the best ways to help your child manage this condition. Here are six things you may want to know.

1. You can ease fears about finger pricks and insulin injections.

  • Ask about insulin pens or short needle insulin syringes – they can be less painful for kids.
  • Ask your child’s doctor if you can practice on yourself using salt water.
  • Help your child relax and breathe deeply – this will make it hurt less.
  • Kiss the area before and after – and give your child a big hug.
  • Use fresh lancets each time – they hurt less.

2. Exercise is vital.

“Exercise helps lower blood sugar levels and manage weight,” says Anuradha Viswanathan, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. “Staying at a healthy weight in childhood can make it easier to maintain a healthy weight as an adult.” Help your child find ways to be active for at least an hour every day, whether it is playing team sports or just playing tag in the backyard.

3. Some target A1c levels have changed.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recently lowered the target A1c levels for children with type 1 diabetes. An A1c test measures blood sugar levels over a few months. The ADA now recommends that all children under age 19 aim for an A1c level lower than 7.5 percent. “The ADA lowered the target level because it found high blood sugar levels can lead to serious problems in children,” says Dr. Viswanathan.

Most children with type 2 diabetes should keep their A1c levels at 7 percent or lower. If you have any questions about your child’s A1c levels, talk with his or her doctor.

4. There is no need to make special meals.

A diet for diabetes is a healthy diet for your whole family. Here are some diabetes diet basics:

  • Choose carbs with lots of fiber, such as fresh fruits and vegetables and whole-grain breads and cereals.
  • Choose heart-healthy fats, such as vegetable oils, avocados, nuts and low-fat mayonnaise.
  • Drink plenty of water. Sugar-free soda and sugar-free fruit drinks are also good choices.
  • Enjoy lean proteins, such as fish, lean meats, poultry without the skin, low-fat cheese, eggs, beans, nuts and soy foods.

5. You should have a plan for school.

Talk with your child’s doctor about creating a diabetes medical management plan (DMMP) to share with the school nurse and other personnel. A DMMP outlines all the care your child needs during school hours.

6. You do not have to shy away from parties.

Follow these tips to help your child have a fun and safe time:

  • Ask your child’s doctor how to handle eating extra carbs on special occasions.
  • Tell the host parents about your child’s diabetes. Explain if there is anything special your child will need to do during the party, such as checking blood sugar.
  • Ask if you can provide a healthy treat your child enjoys.

Diabetes resources are a click away

Just visit Rainbow.org/AskRainbow and browse our health library to find information about diabetes, including meal-planning tips and more.

Anuradha Viswanathan

ANURADHA VISWANATHAN, MD
Pediatric Endocrinologist, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital
Assistant Professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

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