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Caring for Children with Diabetes

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a condition in which the body fails to make or properly use a hormone called insulin. Insulin turns sugar, starches and other foods into energy needed for daily life.

There is no cure for diabetes, but there is treatment that can control blood sugar levels and prevent symptoms and complications.

There are two types of diabetes that can impact your child’s health:

Type 1 diabetes

  • Your child’s body doesn’t produce insulin
  • Food doesn’t turn into energy and without insulin causes your child to be hungry and tired often
  • It’s important to give your child insulin daily and monitor the condition

Type 2 diabetes

  • Your child’s body cannot properly respond to the insulin produced
  • Your child may not have to take insulin depending on doctor’s advice, but blood sugar must be monitored

How do I know my child is diabetic?

Your child may be diabetic if they have these symptoms:

  • Often hungry and thirsty
  • Sweet smelling breath
  • Often urinates, pees in the bed
  • Tired easily and lacks energy
  • Rapid weight lose
  • Blurry vision
  • Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
  • Wounds take a long time to heal
  • Sick to the stomach or vomits without another illness
  • Weak, confused, dizzy or shaky when blood sugar is low

How to help manage your child’s diabetes

Work with your child’s doctor to keep the condition under control. You can help prevent diabetes complications by going to the doctor for regular checkups. It’s important for your child to attend all checkups because they’re more likely to become sick quickly due to the lack of insulin in their bodies.

You can also develop a routine to check your child’s blood sugar and provide healthier meal choices. For more support ask family, friends, and teachers for help, too.

What happens if my child’s diabetes isn’t treated?

Untreated can lead to complications such as:

  • Difficulties with vision, even blindness
  • Poor circulation, especially in hands and feet
  • Diabetic coma
  • Stroke (brain attack)
  • Kidney disease
  • High blood pressure

Family links

You or another adult in your family may have diabetes. That does not mean it’s your fault your child has it. So don’t feel bad. Helping your child monitor his or her condition is the best thing you can do for both of you. It’s all about making healthy lifestyle choices together.

Make a diabetic care plan for teachers, friends and family

Your child’s blood sugar may drop or rise during school hours, or while playing at a friend’s home. Make sure the following people are trained on the basics of diabetes care and know what to do in an emergency:

  • Family Members
  • Teachers and Teacher’s Aides
  • School Nurse
  • School Counselors
  • Babysitters
  • Neighbors
  • Parents of your child’s friends

Monitoring teens with diabetes

As children enter their pre-teen and teen years they can take on more responsibility in managing their diabetes.  But they may be embarrassed about doing so in front of friends. They may not want to stop other activities to take care of their condition. You will want to help them understand that it’s important to stay on top of their blood sugar or they can be in danger of becoming seriously ill. 

A daily living checklist

Here’s a list that children can follow to help manage their diabetes:

  • Monitor blood sugar up to six times a day
  • Take insulin, if it is prescribed
  • Keep sugars and sweets to a minimum
  • Avoid sodas completely or drink diet soda instead of regular
  • Have a nutrition plan to keep blood sugar levels balanced
  • Eat right-sized portion meals
  • Exercise! Walk, play sports or other physical activity (talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise or diet plan)
  • Participate in a weight loss program, if the child is overweight
  • Blood testing at home and school (testing kits are available at any pharmacy with a prescription from your healthcare provider)
  • Wear a medic bracelet

For more information

You can learn more about your child’s condition by talking to your doctor. Your doctor may give you the name of a licensed dietitian (nutrition specialist) in your area.

You can also enroll your child in our Healthier You program for additional assistance and to receive a free medic alert bracelet. For more information call our helpline at 1-866-500-4571 (TTY 1-877-454-8477).

If your child does not have a family doctor, please call Health Partners Plans’ 24-hour Member Relations helpline at 1-800-553-0784 (TTY 1-877-454-8477) right away and we will help you find one in your area.

Additional Diabetes Resources

Juvenile Diabetes Foundation 1-800-533-2873
American Diabetes Association 1-800-338-3633
Pennsylvania Health Department 1-877-724-3258