Each year thousands of kids are diagnosed with diabetes, a metabolic disorder that affects how your child processes the food they eat, the energy they have, and how they grow.
Overview of Pediatric Diabetes: Type 1 vs. Type 2
In most cases, children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, which is frequently called “juvenile diabetes” because it is most commonly found in kids and young adults. This type of diabetes is characterized by the body’s inability to produce insulin, preventing much needed glucose from getting to the cells. Rather, glucose stays in the bloodstream, causing your child to feel weak, hungry, thirsty, and wrecking havoc on your nervous and circulatory systems.
While less common, young people can also be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Often associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes is characterized by the body's inability to receive insulin.
Signs and Symptoms
If you are concerned that your child may be suffering from lower than normal blood glucose levels and may have pediatric diabetes, watch for physical and behavioral markers.
Low blood glucose levels can cause shakiness, dizziness, sweatiness and a rapid heartbeat. Your child may be weaker than usual, or exhibit more sleepiness. They may complain of a headache or confusion, and may be more moody or irritable. They may also be more hungry as their body tries to take in more nutrients. If these symptoms sound familiar, talk to your primary care provider.
Managing your child’s diabetes requires daily action and lifestyle alterations. You will need to check their blood glucose levels throughout the day, often accomplished by taking a tiny sample of blood and using a glucose meter machine.
Depending on how much insulin your child is producing, you may need to administer additional doses of insulin, usually through a shot or injection. This can be difficult to get used to at first, but it will become easier with time as you and your son or daughter gets accustomed to it. Injections are usually given in areas of the body where there is more fat tissue, like the upper arms, stomach, thighs, and buttocks.
Historically, pediatric diabetes management also called for stringent control over your child’s daily diet. But thanks to improvements in insulin, you now have more flexible options. Your child can eat as much or as little as they need to satisfy their hunger. When meal planning, it is still helpful to stick to a few basic tips:
- Eat a variety of foods. This is the best way to make sure your child is getting the energy, vitamins, and minerals they need to grow, play, work, and stay healthy.
- Allow treats once in a while—but don’t overdo it. There are no “bad foods” or “good foods” in your meal plan. But just like everybody else, you and your child need to make healthy choices. Set a good example for them by eating healthy yourself.
- Stick to a schedule. Have your meals and snacks at about the same time every day, and don’t “graze” in between.
- Pay attention to carbs in meals and snacks. Food is made up of three main nutrients: fat, protein, and carbohydrate. Of these, carbs have the biggest effect on your blood glucose. For this reason, you need to match your child’s insulin intake to your carbohydrate intake. You can do this by carefully measuring your child’s insulin doses and counting the carbs present in your meals and snacks.
Your child’s doctor and caregivers are your partners in helping you manage a pediatric diabetes diagnosis. Together you can help your child understand his or her condition and how it impacts them and you.
Your provider will introduce you to a variety of resources to guild and support you, and help you choose the blood glucose monitoring and insulin injection materials that work best for you. You will meet with your doctor regularly to adjust your child’s medication and dosage, and to solve any problems that arise.
Receiving a diabetes diagnosis can be overwhelming, especially when it concerns your child. But with the help of an experienced medical team you can take steps and adjust habits to treat the side effects, limit damage, and help your child live a healthier life.
© 2018 Intermountain Healthcare. All rights reserved. The content presented here is for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, and it should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.