Managing Type 2 Diabetes in Children

Over the past two decades, the incidence of type 2 diabetes (T2D) in children has been rising. It was uncommon for kids to receive a diagnosis of T2D prior to this time. Certain subgroups are dis-proportionally more affected: African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian/Pacific Islanders, and American Indians.1

How to help your child manage type 2 diabetes

As a parent, receiving a T2D diagnosis for your child may bring about feelings of hopelessness, fear, anger, and sadness. It is important not to blame yourself; it is normal to feel this way. Remember that T2D is a complex condition, based on social, environmental, and behavioral risk factors, further complicated by genetic susceptibility. Your child may also be feeling these emotions, in addition to confusion. The following tips may help explain the new diagnosis.

Have a talk with your child

Depending on how old your child is, it may be worthwhile to discuss the diagnosis. Inform them that some kids have bodies that do not correctly use a very important hormone, insulin. Assure them that while this condition does not go away, they can still do many of the same things that they used to do. With the right management protocol of medication therapy, nutrition and exercise, they will start to feel better.

Start implementing lifestyle changes

To manage the condition, lifestyle changes may be warranted. It is important to speak with your child through these changes. Demonstrate how to check their blood sugar levels; having them test yours is engaging and can make he/she feel more in control. Discuss target blood sugar ranges with the doctor. Keep this range available for your child to see, and ensure you emphasize that it is not their fault if they do not meet their target range. Some kids may interpret these readings as an exam and may fault themselves for their results. How you react to these readings will affect their response. In addition, your child should know what to do if they have low blood sugar levels.

Consider medication options

Some children are prescribed pills and/or insulin. You should also purchase quick sugar sources, such as Dex4 tablets, which are sold at most drugstores. Keep this in all areas where your child frequents, such as cars, home and school. Secondly, inform school and coaches, if applicable, of your child's diagnosis. It is a good idea to purchase a medical alert ID, such as a bracelet, to wear in case of an emergency.

Exercise

Your child should not stop playing in fear of low blood sugar. Most kids are given the green light to continue to play and participate in sports; however, you should always consult with your doctor. Teach your child how to check their blood sugar levels before exercise at the beginning, and occasionally thereafter, so you can see trends in how his/her's blood sugar will change in response to exercise. Remind your child to keep hydrated during sports.

Do it together

Your child should not do this alone. Any changes in meals and exercise levels should be done as a family. Involve them in meal planning. For example, teach them to balance the amount of carbohydrates, protein, and fat in a meal. There are many fun, healthy recipes that can be prepared together.

A diagnosis of T2D can be a scary time. With the right tools and social support, your child can lead a healthy and happy life.

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