Type 1 Diabetes in Children – What Does Caregiver Need to Know?

Type 1 Diabetes in Children

Diabetes Mellitus type 1 is a condition which only accounts for about 5% of all cases of diabetes, a group of metabolic disorders that affect the way the body uses or produces insulin. It is almost always diagnosed in children or adolescents, and is typically easy to identify once a child starts experiencing symptoms. There are not necessarily differences between children and adults in terms of the symptoms of the condition; however type 1 diabetes in children does require specialized care.

Children go through so many changes as they progress from infancy through young adulthood. This can make it easier to overlook symptoms and cause caregivers to pay less attention to the signs that could indicate a diagnosis of diabetes or complications in newly diagnosed cases. Because of this, as many as 30% of children with a new diagnosis of diabetes end up hospitalized from DKA, a complication of the condition. Adequate and appropriate care for type 1 diabetes in children immediately following diagnosis is absolutely essential to preventing complications from arising.

Because a child is consistently growing and changing, dedicated care is essential. This means that a caregiver will be responsible for a great many things throughout the day. This includes monitoring a child’s diet and exercise, helping and overseeing medicine administration depending on the child’s age and teaching them to ultimately be independent and engage in self management once they are old enough. Additionally, a caregiver overseeing type 1 diabetes in children must also always be cognizant of the symptoms of the condition, should blood sugar levels be too high or too low in order to prevent medical emergencies and be ready to act should they arise.

Most of the time, type 1 diabetes in children will require the administration of insulin, usually around two times daily. Since there is no cure for the disease, insulin is the only available type 1 diabetes treatment, and it’s incredibly important to help stabilize blood sugar levels. One of the most important roles of a caregiver to a child with the disease is to ensure the proper administration of insulin at the appropriate times. Typically, insulin given to children must be administered via an injection, because it’s the only way to provide the mixture of insulins needed to control blood sugar levels immediately. Caregivers of young children may have to perform the injections themselves at the appropriate times, while caregivers of older children may not give the injections, rather ensure they are performed timely and at the correct dosage. The dose and schedule of insulin injections is incredibly varied and specific to each child. Therefore diligent attention must be paid to the dosing and schedule of injections for type 1 diabetes in children.

Monitoring is another big and very important part of managing type 1 diabetes in children. Not only does blood sugar monitoring signal highs or lows, but it also can alert caregivers to how well routines, mealtimes and exercise are working. As with most other parts of care related to children with the condition, how and when to monitor can vary greatly. A doctor will provide the best recommendations, and it’s important for a caregiver to follow his or her instructions with regards monitoring precisely. Caregivers must also be cognizant of the symptoms of blood sugar that is too high or too low, and be ready to respond immediately in these cases. Children with blood sugar that is too low may feel hungry, shaky, sweaty, tired and dizzy. Conversely, children with blood sugar that is too high may urinate a lot or feel very thirsty. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) can happen very quickly, as opposed to high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) which typically develops over a few days. Prompt attention to the matter is essential in either case as both can lead to further complications.

Another important part of caring for type 1 diabetes in children is diet and exercise. Older children will typically have a harder time adapting to a routine schedule of when to eat and when to exercise in order to time these activities around their insulin doses for good management. However, a caregiver must ensure this takes place to prevent hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia. Developing a routine is often easier in younger children, but no less important. While when they eat is important, what and how much they eat are also very important. Large meals can cause unwanted changes in blood sugar levels, and skipping meals entirely can have the same effect. Additionally, excessive carbs are a bad idea if type 1 diabetes in children is present, as well as refined foods and anything else that contains excess sugar. A type 1 diabetes diet that is developed with a health care provider is essential to properly managing type 1 diabetes in children. With regards exercise, a caregiver must understand when it is appropriate and when it is not. Regular physical activity is good for children with diabetes. However, since it lowers blood sugar levels, monitoring before exercise is a good idea. Intense exercise can cause an unsafe drop in blood pressure. However, should sugar levels be too high, light exercise is one of the best ways to help bring it down.

One of the most important parts of caring for type 1 diabetes in children is providing emotional support. Children often don’t understand why they are different or why they have to have injections everyday. Providing as much support as possible will help with this. Children go through an emotional roller coaster from the time they start school until the time they finish it and it is an emotionally draining time for children not battling a serious health condition. An attempt to ensure that they grow, learn and develop as normally as possible is essential to good management of the condition.

Nearly one tenth of the population has diabetes, and each year almost 20,000 children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. This accounts for just a small number of the over 200,000 children under the age of twenty that have the condition. Type 1 diabetes causes are different from those that cause type 2; but, in children, type 1 is much more common. These diabetes statistics may help caregivers understand how prevalent the condition is, and therefore how far we have come in treating and managing it. There is no cure for type 1 diabetes in children and it is a lifelong condition. However, with the help of medical professionals and diligent and supportive care at home, children with diabetes can live very normal, healthy and happy lives.