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Raising Resilient Children: A Parent's Guide to Successfully Managing Type 1 Diabetes

Updated: Apr 13, 2023


Summary: Type 1 diabetes sounds scary but with timely insulin injections and proper diet planning, it is perfectly manageable. Maintaining the blood sugar in the normal range of 70-150 mg/dl is important to keep the long-term complications of type 1 diabetes such as heart disease, kidney disease, neuropathy, and retinopathy at bay. Including healthy foods in their diet such as eggs, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, and lentils can make a monumental difference in your child’s journey with type 1 diabetes. Avoiding ups and downs in their blood sugar level by eating well-timed healthy meals and regularly monitoring their blood glucose levels can keep your child from having dangerous episodes of hypoglycemia and diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

After reading this article, you will have answers to the following questions

  • What is type 1 diabetes?

  • What are the long-term complications of type 1 diabetes, and what can you do to protect your child from them?

  • How can you help keep your child’s blood glucose levels under control?

  • How can you identify hypoglycemia and help your child feel better?

  • When should you seek immediate medical attention?



What is type 1 diabetes?


Much like a key that opens the fuel tank of a car, Insulin, a hormone released by the pancreas, helps individual cells of the body take in the glucose we get from food and use it to fulfill their energy needs. But in patients affected with Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin and without it, the cells of the body can’t take up glucose from the blood. As a result, the cells of the body are starving and a lot of glucose remains in the blood, leading to a high blood sugar level. Too much glucose in the bloodstream can lead to a variety of complications.


What are the long-term complications of type 1 diabetes and what can you do to protect your child from them?


Persistently high blood sugar levels can cause harm to multiple organs in the body. Type 1 diabetes is known to cause heart disease, mainly by causing premature atherosclerosis or deposition of fatty plaques in the blood vessels and blocking the flow of blood (1). A high level of sugar in the blood also affects the nerves, causing peripheral neuropathy which can present as numbness, tingling, burning pain, or loss of sensation on the skin of the limbs (2). Diabetic retinopathy is another dreaded complication where the retina of the eye undergoes damage and ultimately ends in blindness (3). How do you protect your child from these long-term complications of diabetes? The answer lies in keeping the blood sugar levels under control.


How can you help keep your child’s blood sugar levels under control?


There are three main aspects to maintaining blood sugar at a healthy level.


1. Insulin:

Avoiding blood sugar level fluctuations is the single most effective way to hold back the long-term complications of diabetes discussed above. Taking the right dose of insulin at the recommended time is extremely crucial to prevent isolated episodes of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia. Uncontrolled high blood sugar levels or hyperglycemia can end in diabetic ketoacidosis which is a buildup of compounds called ketones in the body that can be life-threatening (4). On the other hand, hypoglycemia or a low blood glucose level can cause problems ranging from fainting to seizures and coma (5). Making sure your child doesn’t receive insulin on an empty stomach and eats small, frequent meals can fend off episodes of hypoglycemia.



2. Diet control:

What your kids eat and how much they eat has a direct impact on their blood sugar levels. A common misconception is that all sugar-free foods are diabetic friendly. Foods rich in carbohydrates are broken down to glucose in the bloodstream and can cause a spike in the blood glucose level. Some foods that are to be avoided are white rice, bread, potatoes, fruits like bananas, mango, grape, candy, sodas, and desserts. Including eggs, green vegetables, kidney beans, chickpeas, and whole grains in everyday diet can help maintain a healthy level of blood glucose (6). Eating multiple small meals throughout the day, in smaller portion sizes can reduce the urge to snack on junk food and helps maintain a steady blood glucose level, reducing the risk of hypoglycemia.


3. Constant monitoring of blood glucose:

The normal range of blood sugar is 70-150 mg/dl. Checking your child’s blood glucose level from time to time is a great way to monitor their response to insulin and understand what foods make their sugar levels spike. Knowing this could help you plan your child’s diet more effectively. Constant monitoring of blood glucose can also greatly reduce the chances of having an episode of hypoglycemia. Your child’s doctor also needs this information to formulate a treatment plan that fits your child’s needs.



How can you identify hypoglycemia and help your child feel better?


Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar can present as shaking, dizziness, sweating, ringing of the ears, headache, irritability, or confusion. Bringing their blood sugar back to normal is the top priority. When you notice your child experiencing the above symptoms, check their blood glucose level immediately. If their sugar level is lower than 70, giving them something sugary like candy, fruit juice, glucose drinks or sugar itself can help them feel better instantly. It is a good idea for your child to always carry a snack with them.


When should you seek immediate medical attention?


If your child has a decreased energy level, seems confused or drowsy, feels too thirsty, pees a lot, has a dry mouth, breathes faster than usual, or if their breath smells fruity, they might have diabetic ketoacidosis which is an emergency, and needs to be treated as soon as possible. Call your nearest hospital immediately.




References



Author: Dr.Manognya Chekragari

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