Despite our best efforts as parents or caregivers, children will become sick. One such illness which is becoming increasingly prevalent is diabetes. However, keeping a diabetic child healthy is dependent on being informed about the disease, its symptoms, and treatments. Caring for the child with diabetes is the responsibility of all persons who, at some time or other, has to take care of that child. As such, parents need to ensure that all care givers are informed about their diabetic child’s dietary needs.
Most children tend to have type I diabetes, previously known as juvenile diabetes, although children are increasingly being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes as well. Type I diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not work and does not produce any insulin. Insulin is needed to help break down sugars (glucose) in our body to help it work efficiently. When this breakdown of sugars does not happen, as in the case of type I diabetes, the sugar stays in the blood stream.
Because insulin is important in breaking down sugars in the body to use for energy, insulin has to be taken to control the illness. Therefore type I diabetes is also called insulin-dependent diabetes. Exercise and diet are also important helping to control this type of diabetes. Caring for the child with diabetes means that you will need to recognize the signs of the illness, as well as any resulting reactions that can occur. The main signs of diabetes in children are:
Breath smelling like fruit
Pulse beating faster than normal
Being weak and dizzy
Vision becoming foggy
Skin tending to be cold and moist
Next, you should be able to identify when the child is in crisis, suffering either a hypoglycemic or hyperglycemic episode, and you should know what to do help in either case. Hyperglycemia occurs when the sugar levels are too high. Rising sugar levels are generally a result of eating too much, not taking the correct amount of insulin, or not exercising enough. When a child is hyperglycemic, treatment by medical professionals is needed. A child suffering from high blood sugar will complain of the following:
Needing to urinate frequently
Not seeing clearly
Not being hungry
With hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), the symptoms vary from child to child, but some of the typical signs include:
Sudden mood changes
Tingling feeling around the mouth
The first course of action is to increase the child’s sugar intake by giving them something sweet to drink, such as regular soda, fruit juice or glucose tablets. Once the child is feeling better, you should give them something more solid to eat. If the child is too weak to swallow or is unconscious, administer the recommended dosage of glucagon and call for immediate medical assistance. Glucagon is a medication given by injection to rapidly increase the level of glucose in the blood. It is normally the first course of treatment in severe hypoglycemia.
Diet is a major part of keeping the diabetic child healthy. The caregiver has the responsibility to ensure that the child eats what is recommended. It is also important to talk with the child and let them know that they will get really sick if they eat too many sweets or other foods that can pose a risk. It is also important to let others, such as teachers, know that a diabetic child may need to snack to boost their sugar and energy levels. The child with diabetes must also have regular meals.
Physical activity is important in keeping the diabetic child healthy, as exercise helps to keep blood sugar levels with normal range. Children with diabetes can participate in the same activities as other children, although the diabetic should avoid doing so just before a scheduled mealtime. Having a snack is also important so as to replace sugar lost during physical exertion.
Most importantly, children should be taught how to test their blood sugar levels during the course of the day, once they are able to do soon their own. This is important so that they can take insulin or eat something as needed.
Caring for the diabetic child, while calling for more vigilance in terms of their eating habits can be stress free once you and others taking care of the child know what to do and follow the rules. Also, make sure that emergency numbers are close at hand and that the child learns how to recognize symptoms of potential trouble and take corrective actions.