What is diabetes type 1 in children and teens?

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Type 1 Diabetes in Children: Bryson's Story

Teens: How can you care for yourself when you have type 1 diabetes?

  • Work with your doctor and your family to create a plan that'll help you take responsibility for your:
    • Medicine. Follow the insulin schedule that your doctor gives you.
    • Testing. Check and record your blood sugar as often as directed. These records can help your doctor see how you are doing and adjust your treatment if needed. Keep track of any symptoms you have, such as low blood sugar. And write down any changes in your activities, diet, or insulin use.
    • Eating. Eat healthy foods, including lots of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
    • Exercise. Get plenty of exercise every day. Go for a walk or jog, ride your bike, or play sports with friends.
    • Drinking. Teens may use alcohol for many reasons, but alcohol may cause low blood sugar and can mask symptoms of low blood sugar.
    • Smoking. Don't smoke. Smoking affects your blood vessels and can lead to diabetes problems earlier in life.
  • Always have glucagon with you. It's important that people close to you know the signs of low blood sugar and can give you glucagon if needed.
  • Work with your doctor to write up a sick-day plan for what to do on days when you are sick. Your blood sugar can go up or down, depending on your illness and whether you can keep food down. Call your doctor when you are sick, to see if you need to adjust your insulin.
  • Talk to your doctor, your parents, your friends, or a counselor if you feel afraid, sad, angry, or even guilty about having diabetes.
  • Find out if your school has rules about students carrying their own medicines, needles, and blood sugar meters. Many schools require that students get special permission or that supplies be kept at the school.

How much can children with type 1 diabetes help with their own care?

Children with type 1 diabetes can and should take part in their treatment. As children get older and more experienced with the disease, they can participate more in their treatment.

  • Toddlers and preschool-aged children usually can't do tasks for diabetes care, such as giving insulin or checking blood sugar. But as they get older, they typically can help with these tasks.
  • Children in elementary school can help with all tasks required for their care. With supervision, many children can test their blood sugar level.
  • Children in middle school should be able to test their own blood sugar level. Some children can give insulin shots as long as this happens with supervision.
  • Teens should be able to handle their own care with appropriate supervision. Teens may choose to use an insulin pump instead of shots. If they use a pump, they still need supervision from adults.

How often does a child with type 1 diabetes need to see the doctor?

See your child's doctor at least every 3 to 6 months. The doctor will do tests to see if your child's blood sugar has been in the target range and see how well treatment is working.

Type 1 diabetes in children: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has passed out (lost consciousness).
  • Your child is confused or cannot think clearly.
  • Your child's blood sugar is very high or very low.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child's blood sugar stays outside the level your doctor set.
  • Your child has any problems.

Type 1 Diabetes in Children: How to Support Your Teen

Dani Learns About Type 1 Diabetes

Dani with her parents and her dog

Hi! I'm Dani. Here I am with my parents and my dog, Frank.

I love to play soccer. But not long ago, I wasn't feeling great. And it was making it hard for me to play like normal.

I found out that I have type 1 diabetes. I had to learn some new things and make some changes at home and at school. It was tough at first, but now things are better.

Dani imagines herself kicking a goal

I learned that having diabetes means my body doesn't make insulin. Insulin is a thing that helps turn sugar from food into energy I can use.

I like to use my energy to practice scoring points for my team!

Dani holds up her testing kit

When I don't have insulin, my body can't use the sugar from food. And that can make me feel sick.

But I learned how to keep my body feeling good and healthy. I pay attention to the foods I eat. I check my blood sugar, and I give my body the insulin it needs.

I have a special kit that has my insulin and all the other things I need. My kit is shaped like a butterfly, and I put stickers on the outside. I take my kit with me everywhere I go!

Dani tests her blood sugar, with dad watching

Checking my blood sugar and taking insulin took a little time to get used to.

To test my blood, first I poke my finger. Then I put a drop of blood in a little machine that checks how much sugar is in the blood.

Dani gives herself insulin, with dad watching

After I test my blood, a grownup helps me figure out how much insulin my body needs.

Insulin gets into my body through a shot. The shot has a really small needle. And now that I'm used to the shots, I don't even feel them much anymore.

At first, I needed a grownup to do the finger pokes and shots. But now, after lots of practice, I can do them all by myself! I just need to have a grownup with me.

Dani high-fives a friend outside the nurse's office

At school, I go to the nurse's office a few times a day to test my blood and take my insulin.

When I started going to the nurse's office so much, some kids wondered why. They were worried about me, because they thought I might be sick.

So I told them about diabetes. And I told them that you can't catch it from somebody else.

Dani and her family eat dinner

Having diabetes means I am more careful about the food I eat. But it DOESN'T mean I can't have treats. I just have to make healthy choices most of the time. And I have to remember that if I eat some types of food, I might need more insulin.

My family helps me by eating healthy too. We make dinner together, and we all help with the cooking. Frank helps by cleaning up what falls on the floor.

Dani holds her kit on the soccer field, with Kate and Arthur.

I can keep doing all the activities I like to do. Like playing soccer! Because exercise helps me stay healthy too.

Oh! And I learned I'm not the only kid on my team who brings medicine to soccer! Arthur brings his asthma inhaler, and Kate brings her bee sting kit. We help each other remember to bring the things we need when we have practice and games.

That's Dani's story. Now that you know what SHE learned about diabetes, can you think of some things YOU have learned? What do you want your kit to look like? How will you decorate it?

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