Learning that your child has Type 1 diabetes can be overwhelming even with the right pediatric care. Although there is no cure for Type 1 diabetes in children, it can be managed effectively.
So – you and your child are now on a lifelong journey: Take a breath, relax, and know that we are here to support you!
Pediatric Care for Children with Type 1 Diabetes
Pediatric care for a child with Type 1 diabetes can seem like a lot to take on, but the condition is manageable when you have patience and a trusted pediatric specialist on your side. Whether your child’s Type 1 diabetes was discovered via routine blood tests performed by your primary care physician or your child was in crisis and had to be hospitalized to restore blood sugar levels, your next step is to find a trusted team to deliver your child excellent pediatric care. Ideally, your child will have
- a pediatric endocrinologist (specializes in metabolic disorders in children)
- a certified diabetes educator
- a dietitian
- an eye doctor
Your First Visit to your Pediatric Care Specialist
You may not have the luxury of forethought if this diagnosis was the result of a crisis. But if you do have the ability to prepare for your first visit with the doctor or team who will be providing your child with pediatric care, we suggest you take these steps before the appointment:
- Ask a family member or friend to go to the appointment with you. This is because when it comes to managing diabetes, there’s a lot of information you have to remember. Taking a helper with you gives you two sets of ears. Your helper may recall something that you missed or forgot.
- Write out questions or concerns that you have. These questions and concerns have a habit of disappearing from your head once you get to the office. Your provider will understand if you read off of a list.
Discussion with your Pediatric Care Specialist
Here is a list of topics that you will likely discuss, or want to discuss, with your child’s pediatric care specialist, dietitian, or diabetes educator:
- How often and when to monitor blood sugar levels
- Insulin therapy 101 – types of insulin used, timing of dosing
- Insulin shots versus pumps
- Recognizing and treating low blood sugar
- How to recognize and treat high blood sugar
- Testing and treating ketones
- Types of food and their effect on blood sugar levels
- Carbohydrate counting
- Adjusting insulin and food intake based on activity levels
- How to deal with diabetes at school, or summer camp, and on special occasions
- How to manage medical visits
- Continuous glucose monitoring devices
Your goal is to maintain your child’s blood sugar at a level that is as close to normal as possible. To achieve this goal, you and your child need to see yourselves as important members of the team. The whole team is working with a treatment plan.
The treatment plan for type 1 diabetes includes
- Counting carbs
- Taking insulin
- Consistent blood sugar monitoring
- Eating a healthy diet
- Regular exercise
Diabetes Management and Pediatric Care, One Day at a Time
No matter how perfectly you try to manage your child’s blood sugar, life happens. Sometimes, everything is easy breezy, while other times it seems like nothing works.
These three short-term complications of type 1 diabetes require immediate care, or they could become very serious:
1. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
What to watch for:
- Irritability and other mood changes
- Difficulty concentrating or confusion
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Loss of coordination
- Slurred speech
- Loss of consciousness
What to do:
- Do a blood sugar test. If the level is too low, your child should consume 15 to 20 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates like fruit juice, glucose tablets, hard candy, regular soda, or another source of sugar.
- After 15 minutes, retest your child’s blood sugar to make sure it’s normal.
- Repeat as necessary until blood sugar levels are back at the target range.
2. High blood sugar (hyperglycemia)
What to watch for:
- Frequent urination
- Increased thirst or dry mouth
- Blurred vision
What to do:
- Test your child’s blood sugar.
- If it’s higher than the target range, follow your child’s diabetes treatment plan or contact your child’s pediatric care specialist.
- Be patient. High blood sugar levels aren’t as easy to control as low ones. It can take time for them to come down.
3. Diabetic ketoacidosis (severe lack of insulin)
If your child has a severe lack of insulin, their body will break down fat and use it as energy. In response, the body produces ketones which can build up in your child’s blood and create a life-threatening condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis.
What to watch for:
- Excessive urination
- Thirst or very dry mouth
- Flushed or dry skin
- Your child’s breath smells sweet or fruity
- Nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain
What to do:
- Use an over-the-counter ketone test kit to check your child’s urine for excess ketones.
- If ketone levels are high, call your child’s doctor or go to the emergency room.
Support for You and Your Child with Type 1 Diabetes
You are not alone. And neither is your child.
Sometimes dealing with diabetes can feel like you are on a roller coaster that is out of control. This is true for both you and your child.
- Erratic blood sugar levels can cause behavior changes.
- Diabetes can also make your child feel like an outsider.
- Drawing blood and giving themselves shots makes them feel and seem different.
There are a lot of support options for both of you, as well as from your pediatric care specialist.
Having play dates with other children who have diabetes or spending time at a diabetes camp can help make your child feel less alone. It can also help you to be around other parents who are dealing with the same issues.
Talking to a counselor or therapist may be just what you or your child needs to help you cope with the dramatic lifestyle changes that come with type 1 diabetes.
Support groups for both parents and children are out there. Being able to talk about what’s going on with other people who are going through it, or have gone through it, can be extremely beneficial to your mental and emotional wellbeing. Ask your pediatric specialist to see if they can recommend a group. You can also check out:
Ready to choose a pediatric care team that you and your child can rely on for their diabetes management? We’re here for you at One Life Medical! Contact us today for an appointment!