If you’re the parent of a child with type 1 diabetes, you know how challenging this disease can be, from giving injections to counting carbohydrates to monitoring blood sugar. At Westchester Health, we have many patients with this condition and are very experienced at helping our parents and young patients (when old enough) adequately manage it. To learn more, read this blog (excerpted version) by Rodd Stein, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with our Westchester Health Pediatrics group.
How can you know if your child has type 1 diabetes? The best way is to be informed and know the facts. To help, here are 8 guidelines.
8 warning signs that your child might have type 1 diabetes
NOTE: If your child has 1 or any combination of the 8 signs and symptoms listed below, he/she should see your pediatrician as soon as possible.
- Increased thirst and frequent urination. Excess sugar buildup in your child’s bloodstream pulls fluid from tissues. As a result, your child might be thirsty and drink and urinate more than usual. In fact, a young, toilet-trained child might suddenly experience bed-wetting.
- Extreme hunger. Without enough insulin to transfer sugar to your child’s cells, his/her muscles and organs lack energy, which triggers intense hunger.
- Weight loss. Unexplained weight loss is often the first sign of type 1 diabetes in children. Despite eating more than usual to relieve hunger, your child may lose weight, sometimes rapidly. Without the energy that sugar supplies, muscle tissues and fat stores simply shrink.
- Your child is unusually tired and lethargic.
- Irritability or behavior changes. In addition to mood swings, your child might suddenly have a decline in performance at school.
- Fruity-smelling breath. Burning fat instead of sugar produces certain substances (ketones) that can cause a fruity breath odor.
- Blurred vision. If your child’s blood sugar is too high, fluid may be pulled from the lenses of his/her eyes, causing your child to be unable to focus clearly.
- Yeast infection. Girls with type 1 diabetes may develop genital yeast infections. Also, babies can develop diaper rashes caused by yeast.
Is your child at risk for type 1 diabetes? Know these risk factors:
- Family history. A child with a parent or sibling with type 1 diabetes has an increased risk of developing the condition.
- Genetic susceptibility. The presence of certain genes indicates an increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
- Race. In the U.S., type 1 diabetes is more common among non-Hispanic white children than among other races.
- Certain viruses. Exposure to various viruses may trigger the autoimmune destruction of the islet cells.
- Infant diet. No specific dietary factor or nutrient has been shown to play a role in the development of type 1 diabetes starting in infancy. However, early intake of cow’s milk has been linked to an increased risk of type 1 diabetes, while breastfeeding might lower the risk. The timing of the introduction of cereal into a baby’s diet also may affect a child’s risk of type 1 diabetes.
5 things you can do to manage your child’s type 1 diabetes
- Monitor blood sugar. Depending on what type of insulin therapy your child needs, you will probably be instructed to check and record your child’s blood sugar at least 4 times a day (maybe more often), requiring frequent finger sticks. This is the only way to make sure your child’s blood sugar level remains within his/her target range, determined by your pediatrician.
- Administer insulin and other medications. Anyone with type 1 diabetes needs insulin treatment. Because stomach enzymes interfere with insulin taken by mouth, insulin needs to be injected with a fine needle syringe or an insulin pen. An insulin pump is another option, worn outside of the body, where, a tube connects the reservoir of insulin to a catheter inserted under the skin of the abdomen. A wireless pump that uses small pods filled with insulin is yet another option, automatically dispensing specific amounts of insulin automatically.
- Healthy eating. At WHP, we feel it’s important to work with a registered dietician who is familiar with diabetes to ensure that your child is getting the right nutritional intake with an emphasis on the different glycemic effects of various carbohydrates. Carbohydrates should be limited to ones high in fiber, and intake should be consistent.
- Physical activity. All children need regular cardiovascular exercise, and those with type 1 diabetes are no exception. Encourage your child to get regular physical activity, whether it’s soccer, swimming, dance, basketball, football, jogging, bike riding or any other aerobic activity. However, be aware that physical activity usually lowers blood sugar, possibly affecting your child’s blood sugar levels for up to 12 hours after exercise. You might need to adjust your child’s meal plan or insulin doses to compensate for the increased activity.
Remember: kids with diabetes can do everything other kids can do
It takes some extra effort to keep blood sugar levels within a healthy range but this gets easier with practice.
Do you think your child might have type 1 diabetes?
If you’re concerned that your child might be developing type 1 diabetes, or already has diabetes, please call (914) 232-1919 to make an appointment with one of our Westchester Health pediatricians. We have years of experience and lots of advice and guidance to help make living with this disease easier on everyone. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.
To read Dr. Stein’s blog in full, click here.