Diabetes in children is growing at a rapid pace all over the world. It is estimated that 7.2% of the US population is diagnosed with diabetes. Of this, 132,000 (0.18% of population) are children below 18 years. The percentage of diabetic children in the USA is a far cry from that of developing and underdeveloped countries. Still, diabetic children should be provided special care so that they can lead a healthy life without developing any complications.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition in which the human body is unable to produce enough insulin to break down sugar into glucose. As a result, the blood sugar levels can be very high..
Diabetes, when not controlled properly, can affect the heart, kidneys, and neurological system of the body. It can even affect a person’s eyesight.
How is Diabetes Diagnosed in Children?
Diabetes in children is diagnosed mainly through a blood test, measured in milligrams of sugar per deciliter of blood (mg/dL). There are three types of tests through which diabetes can be diagnosed:
Random Blood Sugar Test (RBC)
In this test, blood sugar is collected at a non-specific time of the day, and it is subjected to sugar test. If the sugar level is more than 200 mg/dL, then the child is likely suffering from diabetes.
Fasting Blood Sugar Test
Here, the blood is taken early in the morning after overnight fasting, and subjected to a sugar test. If the sugar level is more than 126 mg/dL, then the child has diabetes.
Glycated Hemoglobin (A1C) Test
In this test, an administrator, usually a doctor or the child’s guardian, records the average blood glucose count for 2-3 months. If the count is higher than 6.5 percent, then the child may have diabetic.
What Are the Different Types of Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes, otherwise called Juvenile diabetes, is a condition in which the body is unable to produce insulin at all. This is because the body’s immune system destroys the cells that produce insulin.
This type of diabetes is common among children and young adults, though adults may also contract Type 1 diabetes. The leading cause of this type of diabetes could be certain viral infections, or genetics.
Type 2 diabetes
This is a condition in which the insulin produced by the body is not sufficient for converting sugar to glucose. This type of diabetes is usually seen in people above 40 years of age and who are obese. But in very rare cases, it can be seen in young adults as well.
What Are the Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes?
The main symptoms of diabetes are:
- High thirst and urination
- Excessive hunger
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Weight loss
- Blurred vision
If the child develops any of the above symptoms, and if there is a family history of diabetes, then parents should consult a doctor without delay.
How to Control and Manage Diabetes?
Though there is no end-all cure for diabetes, keeping your child’s blood sugar level under control helps them to lead a healthy life. To that end, you and your child should prepare a proper diabetes management plan when the condition is first diagnosed. You should talk to your child, and ensure they are aware of and understand their condition. Helping your child learn how to manage diabetes will help them later on in their life, when they need to handle things on their own. Your child’s diabetes management plan should include the following steps:
Take the Prescribed Amount of Insulin
Since children with Type 1 diabetes cannot produce the required quantity of insulin, they should take insulin at regular intervals. Insulin can be taken via tablets, injection, or pump. Your doctor will prescribe the required dose and mode of ministration, depending on the severity of the condition. You should make sure that the insulin is administered at regular intervals as prescribed by the doctor.
Monitor Blood Sugar Levels
The child’s blood sugar can be measured by taking a sample of blood from the fingertip. If a more accurate reading is required, then the doctor might ask the child to use a Continuous Glucose Meter (CGM).
A CGM is a device that can be worn by a child that measures their blood sugar level every few minutes. This helps your doctor determine your child’s blood sugar level, and what kind of treatment plan is right for them.
Consume a Balanced Diet
Diet plays a crucial role in managing Type 1 diabetes in children. Some food items can make the blood sugar level rise, while insulin can make the blood sugar level come down. There should be a proper balance between the type and quantity of food ingested, and the amount of insulin taken.
Consuming food rich in carbohydrates like rice can greatly increase the sugar level, whereas, food that is rich in proteins, like vegetables and meat, does not affect the blood sugar level very much. Your diabetes management team, including you, your doctor, and your child, can chart out a meal plan according to what you should prepare for the child.
Regular exercise helps to keep the blood sugar levels under control. The best form of exercise for children is team sports and biking. You should check with your child’s doctor before starting any new exercise regime.
Diabetes in children can be managed effectively if proper care is taken. It is the responsibility of the parents to educate the kids properly so that they can lead a healthy life.
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