Understanding Type 1 diabetes in children

If you suspect your child has diabetes, it may feel overwhelming. With November being National Diabetes Month, it may be a good time to learn about the things you can do as a parent to help spot the symptoms and manage the disease. It may mean making some lifestyle changes, but keep in mind, you’re not alone in this journey and there are resources to help.  

About 283,000 kids 20 years of age and under are diagnosed with diabetes each year in the U.S., with the most common type being Type 1. There is currently no way to prevent Type 1 diabetes (previously known as juvenile diabetes), and there is no cure, which makes it crucial that parents are aware of the symptoms in order to help their child manage the disease. Type 2 diabetes is becoming increasingly common with the rise in obesity, and because the treatments for these conditions can be different, it’s important for your child to be diagnosed properly.

Dr. Sherry Franklin, a board-certified pediatric endocrinologist and clinical medical director in Enterprise Clinical Services for Optum, shares tips on what signs to look for and if diagnosed, how to help your child.

Diabetes symptoms can appear quickly. Dr. Franklin recommends consulting your child’s doctor, if you notice the following:

  • Your child seems to be drinking too much
  • Your child has frequent urination
  • Sudden bed-wetting occurs that’s out of the norm
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Your child is especially irritable or has other unexpected mood changes
  • Your child’s vision becomes blurred
  • Your child is constantly fatigued or feels weak

Diabetes doesn’t define or limit your child, but Dr. Franklin emphasizes the importance of following your doctor’s recommendations to help him or her thrive. Here are some tips to help:

  • Follow the insulin prescription given by your doctor. There are several ways to administer the insulin, including a needle, pen or through a pump. Find what works best for your child.
  • Ensure your child eats a balanced diet that includes vegetables, fruits, lean protein and whole grains.
  • Monitor your child’s blood sugar levels at least four times a day, more if they don’t have a continuous glucose monitor (CGM).
  • Encourage physical activity for at least 60 minutes a day.

If your child has diabetes, learning about the disease is an important first step to help them better manage it. While there are many great resources for parents, always follow your doctor’s specific recommendations.

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