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Diabetes In Children

Diabetes in Children: Frequently Asked Questions

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 - 18:10

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Here are some frequently asked questions related to diabetes in children.

Q: Diabetes runs in my family, and I'm concerned that my children might be affected. What symptoms should I watch for?

A: Only your children's doctor can tell for sure if they have diabetes. They may have some or none of the following symptoms: frequent urination, excessive thirst, unexplained weight loss, extreme hunger, sudden vision changes, tingling or numbness in the hands or feet, feeling very tired much of the time, very dry skin, sores that are slow to heal, and more infections than usual.

Q: If type 1 diabetes runs in our family, can it be avoided if my child follows a healthy diet before the onset of the disease?

A: As far as we can tell, there isn't anything that can be done to prevent diabetes in a person. Diabetes prevention trials and other studies are looking into various theories. But for now, there are no known lifestyle changes that can keep type 1 diabetes from developing.

Q: My 5-year-old daughter, who has type 1 diabetes, has numerous low blood sugar levels. What does this mean for her, and what should I do?

A: Many low blood sugar levels indicate that your daughter's insulin and foods are not matching up. Discuss this with your child's diabetes team and make the appropriate adjustments. Good control now is important to help avoid health problems later in life.

Q: Our 6-year-old son was just diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Should we discuss with him the serious complications that he could experience if he does not monitor his blood sugars?

A: Fear is never an appropriate strategy for motivating children to control diabetes. It likely will cause your son undue anxiety. At his age, it is up to you as parents to be responsible for your son's diabetes regimen, so he should not make the choices about monitoring blood sugars. When he is older and you believe he is ready, you can share the responsibility for controlling the diabetes.

Q: Why are we having such a hard time keeping our child's blood sugar level between 80 and 120?

A: No one with diabetes is capable of keeping blood sugars between 80 and 120 all of the time. Setting unrealistic goals only sets everyone up to be miserable and feel like a failure. Most of your child's blood sugars should be between 70 and 160, but your diabetes team will tell you what range of numbers to aim for.

Q: My 20-year-old son has type 1 diabetes and is planning a trip abroad. What documentation should he take with him so that he can travel safely with his needles and medicine?

A: The rule of thumb for traveling with diabetes is to take plenty of supplies and don't let them out of your hands. Have prescriptions for everything, especially anything that could be interpreted as illegal. A customs letter signed by the doctor is usually all that is required.

Q: My teenage daughter has a lot of trouble with her morning blood sugars. I think she should use an insulin pump, but she can't deal with the thought of something inside of her. Should we insist?

A: There certainly are a number of options other than the pump, so your daughter shouldn't be pressed into something she doesn't want. With the help of her diabetes team, she can try varying the timing or the dosages of insulin to see if it helps keep her morning blood sugars within a good range.

Q: My 10-year-old son has been insulin-dependent for three months, but we're having a hard time with fluctuating blood sugars. How do we get through the honeymoon phase of his diabetes without continuous changes in his diet and insulin regimen?

A: Small adjustments to insulin dosing are frequently required to respond to high and low blood sugars. It is especially important to make adjustments in response to trends in blood sugars (for example, frequently being low at lunch). Every person's metabolism of insulin is different. Your diabetes team can help you with the important decision of choosing the correct type of insulin.

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