Lifestyle and home remedies
Type 1 diabetes is a serious disease. Helping your child follow his or her diabetes treatment plan takes round-the-clock commitment and will initially require some significant lifestyle changes.
But your efforts are worthwhile. Careful management of type 1 diabetes can reduce your child's risk of serious — even life-threatening — complications.
As your child gets older:
- Encourage him or her to take an increasingly active role in diabetes management
- Stress the importance of lifelong diabetes care
- Teach your child how to test his or her blood sugar and inject insulin
- Help your child make wise food choices
- Encourage your child to remain physically active
- Foster a relationship between your child and his or her diabetes treatment team
- Make sure your child wears a medical identification tag
Above all, stay positive. The habits you teach your child today will help him or her enjoy an active and healthy life with type 1 diabetes.
School and diabetes
You'll need to work with your child's school nurse and teachers to make sure they know the symptoms of high and low blood sugar levels. The school nurse might need to administer insulin or check your child's blood sugar levels. Federal law protects children with diabetes, and schools must make reasonable accommodations to ensure that all children get a proper education.
Coping and support
Living with type 1 diabetes isn't easy — for you or for your child. Good diabetes management requires a lot of time and effort, especially in the beginning. There are several issues to address.
Your child's emotions
Diabetes can affect your child's emotions both directly and indirectly. Poorly controlled blood sugar can cause behavior changes, such as irritability. If that happens at a birthday party because your child forgot to take insulin before having a piece of cake, he or she could end up fighting with friends.
Diabetes can also make your child feel different from other kids. Having to draw blood and give themselves shots sets kids with diabetes apart from their peers. Getting your child together with other children who have diabetes may help make your child feel less alone.
Mental health and substance abuse
People with diabetes have an increased risk of depression and anxiety, which may be why many diabetes specialists regularly include a social worker or psychologist as part of their diabetes care team.
Teenagers, in particular, may have a particularly hard time dealing with diabetes. A child who has been very good about sticking to his or her diabetes regimen may rebel in the teen years by ignoring his or her diabetes care.
Teens may also have a harder time telling friends that they have diabetes because they want to fit in. They may also experiment with drugs, alcohol and smoking, behaviors that can be even more dangerous for people with diabetes. Eating disorders and forgoing insulin to lose weight are other problems that can occur more often in the teen years.
Talk to your teen, or ask your teen's doctor to talk to your teen, about the effects of drugs, alcohol and smoking on someone with diabetes.
If you notice that your child or adolescent is persistently sad or pessimistic, or experiences dramatic changes in sleeping habits, friends or school performance, have your child assessed for depression. Also tell your child's doctor if you notice that your son or daughter is losing weight or doesn't seem to be eating well.
Talking to a counselor or therapist may help your child or you cope with the dramatic lifestyle changes that come with a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. Your child may find encouragement and understanding in a type 1 diabetes support group for children. Support groups for parents are also available.
Although support groups aren't for everyone, they can be good sources of information. Group members often know about the latest treatments and tend to share their own experiences or helpful information, such as where to find carbohydrate counts for your child's favorite takeout restaurant. If you're interested, your doctor may be able to recommend a group in your area.
Websites that offer support include:
- The American Diabetes Association (ADA). The ADA also offers diabetes camp programs that provide education and support for children and teens with diabetes.
- Children with Diabetes.
Putting information in context
Complications from poorly controlled diabetes can be frightening. It's important to remember that many studies — and therefore, a lot of literature you may be reading — were completed before many advances in diabetes care occurred. If you and your child work with your child's doctor and do your best to control blood sugar levels, your child will likely live a long and normal life.
There's currently no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes.
Children who have a high risk of developing type 1 diabetes can be tested for antibodies associated with the disorder. But the presence of these antibodies doesn't make diabetes inevitable. And there's currently no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes if the antibodies are found.
Researchers are working on preventing type 1 diabetes in people who have a high risk of developing the disease. Other research focuses on preventing further destruction of the islet cells in people who are newly diagnosed.
While there's nothing you could have done to prevent your child's type 1 diabetes, you can help your child prevent its complications by:
- Helping your child maintain good blood sugar control as much as possible
- Teaching your child the importance of eating a healthy diet and participating in regular physical activity
- Scheduling regular visits with your child's diabetes doctor and a yearly eye exam beginning no more than five years after the initial diabetes diagnosis