Diabetes mellitus is considered a disease of the adults. However, the disease does not spare children either. Worldwide, there are 500,000 children aged under 15 years with type 1 diabetes. India houses about 97,700 children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes mellitus. Children with type 1 diabetes mellitus require life-long care and proper monitoring to prevent complications.
Type 1 diabetes is known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. In this condition, the pancreas no longer produces insulin, and the insulin needs to be supplied through external sources such as through injections.
The risk factors for type 1 diabetes include:
- Family history: If a parent or siblings suffer from diabetes then there is an increased risk for the child to develop type 1 diabetes.
- Genetic susceptibility: The presence of certain genes increases the risk of developing the condition.
- Geography: The likelihood of type 1 diabetes increases with the distance with the equator. People in Finland and Sardinia have the highest risk of type 1 diabetes mellitus.
- Other risk factors include certain viral infections, low vitamin D intake, early introduction of cow’s milk, being born with jaundice, and early or late introduction of cereals and gluten into the diet.
Signs and symptoms
The signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes are:
- Weight loss: Unexplained weight loss is the first symptom of type 1 diabetes. In spite of eating in excess to relieve hunger, your child may lose weight.
- Extreme hunger: You child may feel hungry even after eating.
- Fatigue: Your child may become tired and lethargic very easily.
- Blurred vision: High blood sugar levels may affect your child’s eyes and can even lead to the loss of ability to focus.
- Increased thirst and frequent urination: Due to excess sugar in the bloodstream, your child may feel thirsty. As a result, he/she may drink more water and urinate frequently.
- Yeast infection: Girls with type 1 diabetes may develop a genital yeast infection, and babies can develop diaper rash caused by yeast.
Seek your doctor’s help if you notice any of these symptoms.
Taking care of your child
Dietary changes: Usually, the child with diabetes can eat the same healthy food as everyone else. But you need to be careful and need to follow certain precautions:
- You need to include plenty of fruits and veggies along with some other types of foods as suggested by the doctor.
- You need to include healthy carbohydrate foods like beans, veggies, and whole grains if your child is taking insulin daily.
- You should instruct your child to avoid drinking sugary drinks like juice or soda as they contain many added sugars.
- You should make sure that your child regularly eats at the same time each day.
Physical health: Your child can participate in all physical activities with his/her friends and classmates. Physical activity for 60 minutes or more sometimes may cause the blood sugar levels to become too low. Here are some tips to follow to promote the safety of your child during physical activity.
If your child is participating in a sports team:
- Make sure that the coach knows that your child has diabetes.
- Instruct your child to have candies or cookies if feeling dizzy.
- Remember to give your child a snack before playing.
- Make sure that your child wears a medical ID bracelet all times.
Care at school: Type I diabetes has to be managed 24 hours a day, even when your child is at school. You need to inform the teachers and care providers about your child’s condition.
You need to:
- create a diabetes management plan for your child
- educate the teachers how to manage a hypoglycemic episode in your child
- put a diabetes supply kit in your child’s backpack
- help your child to make healthy food choices
- create a plan for your child’s health on field trips and during and after-school activities
Understand your child’s feelings:
Emphasize independence: As a parent, you need to support and encourage your child, then he or she can take the responsibilities of managing it and will build positive attitude and confidence.
Focus on friendship: Having fun with friends builds a sense of belongingness and confidence. Encourage your child to discuss that he/she has diabetes with his/her friends. This makes their friends feel more comfortable interacting with your child.
Rectify misconceptions: Talk to your child about the facts that people do not deserve diabetes but it just happens. If your child is feeling guilty about diabetes, offer him or her assurance that there is no reason to feel guilty.
Getting to know, that your child has diabetes is a quite overwhelming; keeping yourself strong would make your child strong and happy. So, you must have a good knowledge about diabetes that is useful for helping your child to stay happy, healthy and active.