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Tips for managing your young child’s health

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that parents of young children recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes must be in want of a little clarity. In other words, if you just found out your child has diabetes and your emotions are swinging from anxiety and despair to complete confusion, don’t worry. It’s totally normal.

Good news for you: Plenty of parents have been through the trenches and made it out with tricks they learned along the way. (Lesson No.1: no matter how overwhelmed you feel right now, it will get better.) Read on for sanity-saving tips from health experts and parents.

Right now

Ease the ouch.

There are very few things young children will sit still for, and blood glucose checks or insulin injections don’t usually top that list. Experts and parents who have been there, done that say the process becomes a whole lot easier if you incorporate distractionsm rewards, comfort, and routine.

Description: Ease the ouch

Ease the ouch

Insulin injections were problematic for Jeff Hitchcock, the founder of ChildrenWithDiabetes.com and father of Marissa, 24, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 2. “That became a test of who could run fastest,” he says. “But kids grow out of it when they realize insulin injections are not optional.” To persuade his toddler to sit still, Hitchcock would offer her a reward, such as a sticker or diabetes-friendly treat. Wendy Rose’s 8-year-old daughter, Adalyne, holds a special stuffed animal whenever the infusion set on her pump is changed.

Distractions help, says Sandy Nimmo, RN, BSN, CDE, a diabetes educator at the Nebraska Medical Center Diabetes Center. So let your child read a book, play with a toy, or watch a TV show. Reserving a place in the house for checking blood glucose and injections also helps, she says, because it makes kids less fearful of getting tested randomly throughout the day.

Jaclyn Gee, MS, CCLS, a child life specialist at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, suggests keeping to a routine. Young kids cry when they’re checked or given insulin mainly because they don’t want to sit still and want to keep playing; with today’s small lancets and syringe needless, the pain is minimal, Gee adds. “As long as they know this is a new routine, they adapt,” she says.

Dose accurately.

Children with diabetes require much less medication than adults, aspecially during the honeymoon period when their bodies still make insulin. The catch: Many syringes aren’t made to handle smaller doses, but you can ask for 30-unit syringes with half-unit markings. A couple of insulin pens allow for half-unit doses, and insulin pumps allow for background and mealtime doses as low as 0.025 units. In certain cases, your doctor may also work with your pharmacist to develop a less-concentrated insulin-saline solution, says David Maahs, MD, PhD, a pediatric endocrinologist at the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes at the University of Colorado, which can help you dose for smaller amounts of medication.

Description: Children with diabetes require much less medication than adults, aspecially during the honeymoon period when their bodies still make insulin.

Children with diabetes require much less medication than adults, aspecially during the honeymoon period when their bodies still make insulin.

Customize treament for lows.

Problem solving is a key skill in diabetes management – one you’ll putto use in figuring out what your child needs. Case in point: When a very young child is hypoglycemic (blood glucose less than 70 mg/dl), he or she may not have teeth to chew candy or a glucose tablet and might not understand how to drink through a straw. Solution: glucose gel or cake gel to the rescue. Rose’s daughter, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 2, had frequent lows and couldn’t use a straw until her blood glucose rebounded. Rose would rub cake gel on her daughter’s gums until she could drink juice.

Description: Customize treament for lows

Customize treament for lows

The amount of carbs a child needs to treat a low is also up for debate. While the beginning guideline for children and adults is 15 grams of glucose or carbohydrate to raise blood glucose to a safe level, that amount may be too much for babies. Andi Smith says 15 grams is still too high for her 4-year-old son, William, who has diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 13 months. “If we give him 15 grams [of carbs], then we’d have to give him insulin and we’d end up with a yo-yo [situation].” It will take some trial and error to arrive at the right number of glucose or carbohydrate grams for your young child, but err on the side of more carbs to begin.

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