Once known as juvenile diabetes, this condition is common amongst young children and adolescents.  The condition occurs when a child’s pancreas can no longer supply the insulin that a child requires to survive.  In such a situation the missing insulin must be replaced through other means.  Diabetes in children causes a monumental shift in lifestyle that must be constantly monitored.

Playing a very substantial role in the onset of diabetes, the pancreas, a large gland located behind the stomach, is responsible for releasing insulin that can help the body absorb simple sugars.  In a healthy body the pancreas will automatically release the needed insulin when the body requires it.  With diabetes type 1 though the pancreas does not produce the necessary insulin, which does not allow the glucose in the body to be processed.  Without the necessary transition into energy that the body needs to function, the glucose will remain in the bloodstream and eventually be passed through the body as urine.

The overall cause of diabetes is still an unknown, but what has been determined is that there is a genetic susceptibility that can be passed down from parent to child.  Just as with any hereditary gene, children are at risk for diabetes if there is a history of it in the family.  While it is still unknown what triggers diabetes, what is known is that the body’s immune system essentially turns on itself. This in turn causes diabetes to occur as the lack of insulin, which serves as a means of allowing glucose into the body.  When too much glucose remains in the bloodstream the body’s blood sugar levels begin to increase, which can lead to serious health risks.

The development of diabetes can take a substantial amount of  time, but the result is always the same. When there is an insufficient amount of insulin in the system the level of blood glucose will elevate rapidly. In such a situation symptoms such as dehydration, abdominal pain, weakness, blurred vision, nausea, reduced blood pressure, and even a dramatic change in body temperature can occur (Smith-Marsh, 2016). Such symptoms are quite serious once they occur, as they indicate the very real danger to a child’s health.  In such cases it is highly recommended that the child be admitted for observation and treatment.  After the onset of diabetes and subsequent acceptance of the condition comes the hardest part of the disease, which is living with it.

The costs of diabetes type 1 are often longer lasting and can impact families in many different ways (Zhou, Zhang, Barker, Albright, Thompson, Gregg, 2014).  Those children who are type 1 are often seen to miss a great deal of school and require a very large amount of in-home care.  Should the disease affect a toddler the care and monitoring of the condition would require a great deal more time and effort than might be needed for a school-age child.  The impact upon the family would begin with the medical costs and the need for one parent to remain home with the child if those children are not yet old enough to care for themselves.

Much of the cost though would be the initial bills and price of the needed materials to deal with the condition. Needles, insulin, and whatever other materials are needed all factor into the cost, as do the days off taken to deal with the condition and the time it takes to adapt to such a new and unexpected development. The ongoing costs eventually even out as parents and children come to better understand how to change their eating habits and how to monitor the child’s insulin intake.

It is highly recommended for families to change their eating habits when possible in order to better support children who have to worry about what foods they can eat and in what quantities.  Any foods high in carbohydrates are wise to leave alone or use sparingly.  Insulin shots can counter the intake of glucose and help the body remain at an even balance, but too many carbohydrates will pose a very serious health risk to children with diabetes.  While it not absolutely necessary to block out carbohydrates, it is important to find a healthy and sustainable balance.

The necessity of learning about the condition and how to keep it balanced is a must for parents with children that have diabetes type 1.  Despite the fact that toddlers must be constantly monitored and cared for, older children, around ages 5 and up, can possibly be taught how to monitor and aid in their own care.  The more educated a family becomes concerning diabetes and how it affects the body the more likely it is that both parents and children will be able to keep from any unwanted accidents.  Diabetes is a very serious condition, but when monitored and carefully controlled it can be manageable.

The upside of diabetes is that while it can be a highly debilitating condition it is manageable and does not stymie what children with type 1 can do. They can still lead fulfilling, active lives that are just as normal as anyone else.  The major adjustment that needs to be made is the checking of their blood glucose every so often, perhaps around 10 to 12 times a day depending upon what they eat, how active they are, and the timing of their meals. For many the math that needs to be considered during checks can be daunting, but is necessary to learn.

There are several types of insulin available to be considered, and all of them vary in how fast they will act within the body.  Rapid acting will take roughly 15 minutes and should be taken at the same time as a meal.  Regular acting insulin usually takes 30 to 60 minutes to react, and is typically taken 30 minutes before a meal.  Insulin that lasts for upwards of 10 to 16 hours is called intermediate-acting, and is used to simulate insulin that is commonly found in blood without a need for food.  This is a must have for patients with type 1 diabetes.

Long acting insulin is very similar to the intermediate type, and can last for around 20 to 24 hours. Many diabetics inject this type of insulin at least twice a day to keep their blood sugar regulated. The final type of insulin is a pre-mixed variety which combines two different types of insulin. This could be a fast-acting and intermediate insulin mixture that can help to regulate glucose levels during and between meals.  The dosage of insulin that a patient receives is usually determined by a doctor so as to prescribe the necessary amount.  Prescribing too much insulin

could be just as harmful as going without, as the glucose levels continue to rise until an

individual becomes hypoglycemic.

Injecting insulin can be tricky the first time, and needs to be done correctly.  There are a few methods by which to inject insulin, those being a syringe, a pen needle, and an insulin pump.  Which is used is dependent upon the preference of the user and, in the case of children, the parent or guardian.  In any case it is necessary for an adult to measure the doses and inject the insulin so as to avoid any costly mistakes.  While the proper dosage will be determined by a doctor, the effective dose will take a bit of trial and error to figure out.  For the benefit of both the child and the parent there are courses offered by hospitals and clinics that can display how to inject insulin and how to accurately measure the doses.

Each needle must be sterilized and used only once so as to avoid infection and disease.  A separate container needs to be used to dispose of the used needles as well, and it is wise to have cotton balls and rubbing alcohol on hand just in case.  Injection sites for diabetes type 1 are typically located on the abdomen, the thighs and/or buttocks, the back of the arm, and even the thighs.  It is important to note that injections delivered in the abdomen region are often the most fact-acting as the insulin is absorbed the quickest.

It is recommended to rotate injection sites so as to keep the absorption of the insulin

regular and as fast-acting as possible.  Repeated injections into the same site will cause the insulin to be absorbed slower with each use. The depth at which the insulin is injected is also key in how quickly and effectively it is absorbed.  Doctors often instruct users to place the needle just within the subcutaneous skin, the layer of fatty and connective tissue just beneath the outer layer of skin.

Even with the knowledge of how much and how to inject insulin it is still necessary to

watch what a diabetic ingests.  Caloric intake is not so much the issue as the amount of carbohydrates and starches that can cause the glucose levels to rise much quicker.  Foods that are high in protein, vegetables that are low in starch, and several other foods that are either low in sugars and fat or devoid of them are recommended for diabetics to eat.  There is nothing to state that diabetics cannot enjoy other foods, but they must always be aware of how much they are eating, especially when such foods are high in carbohydrates and starches.

Carb counting is of great importance to those with diabetes, as carbohydrates affect the body more than any other nutrient in terms of glucose levels.  Protein can be harmful if taken in greater amounts than the body needs, but is essentially safe. Fats are never recommended in any large quantity as they can block the digestion process, but in small quantities are quite harmless. Among all nutrients taken into the body a diabetic patient must watch carbohydrates the closest and monitor how much they are taking in.  While this is sometimes a tedious and bothersome process it is vital for the continuing health of an affected individual.

The reason behind why carb counting is so important is that it affects the dose of insulin that a child must be given.  There is no such thing as an insulin regimen that covers the entire spectrum of needs experienced by diabetics.  The plus side of counting carbohydrates is that much of the work is already done for the consumer.  Nutrition facts are present on nearly every packaged food sold in stores and can help by labeling the number of grams, serving sizes, and ingredients within a product.

This can help parents to better understand which foods are essentially safe and which need to be closely monitored.  According to many studies and a substantial amount of research it is advisable in any case to keep healthier and more nutritious foods on hand for children to snack on.  Foods that are balanced in protein, fats, and carbohydrates are commonly recommended to have available to maintain a healthy balance of nutrients throughout the day (Hess-Fischl, 2016). It is ill-advised to keep an abundance of sugary snacks in the house with a diabetic child, but a treat now and again will not be too harmful.

How people react to carbohydrates is another reason why their intake must be monitored.

Some individuals show almost no reaction, while others are incapable of processing such foods and must often stick to lean, low-sugar diets.  Carbohydrates are necessary to maintain balance in the body, but how they react to each individual is important to note so as to recognize which food groups an individual should avoid and which ones they can eat freely.  Many dieticians will devise a meal plan for their patients that allows them to pick and choose from food groups that are both healthy and beneficial to their condition.

What is most important to remember about diabetes, particularly in children, is that the condition is not as debilitating as popular opinion might state.  While diabetes is a serious condition thanks to the effect that it can have upon the body it is easy to regulate and requires changes that are highly beneficial to a child’s growth and development.  It does not signify that a child must live differently than anyone else.  Diabetics can live a healthy and normal life just like anyone else.

 

References

Hess-Fischl, A. MS, RD, BC-ADM, CDE. (2016). Meal Planning for Children with Type 1

Diabetes. Endocrine web.  Retrieved from

http://www.endocrineweb.com/guides/type-1-children/meal-planning-children-type-1-diabetes

Smith-Marsh, D.E. PharmD., CDE. (2016). Type 1 Diabetes Symptoms. Endocrine web.

Retrieved from

http://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/type-1-diabetes/type-1-diabetes-symptoms

Zhuo, X., et al. (2014). The Lifetime Cost of Diabetes and Its Implications for Diabetes

Prevention. American Diabetes Association. Retrieved from

http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/37/9/2557

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