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Diabetes & Children

Throughout the world, incidences of diabetes are on the rise, and consequently so is diabetes amongst children. Most children are affected by type 1 diabetes, although the number of children and young adults affected by type 2 diabetes is beginning to rise, particularly in America. Approximately 90 per cent of young people with diabetes suffer from type 1 and the number of patients who are children varies from place to place.

A figure of 17 per 100,000 children developing diabetes each year has been reported. As metabolic syndrome, obesity and bad diets spread, so too have the first incidences of type 2 diabetes, previously incredibly rare.

How is Diabetes Caused in Children?

The actual causes of the diabetic condition are little understood, in both children and adults. It is widely speculated that diabetes occurred when inherited genetic characteristics are triggered by environmental factors such as diet or exercise. Many type 1 diabetic children do not have diabetes in their families however, so the exact cause remains a mystery.

Type 2 diabetes amongst children is usually caused by an extremely bad diet from a very young age, coupled with a sedentary lifestyle without exercise.

What Symptoms Do Children With Diabetes Exhibit?

Like adults, a number of symptoms may give early warning that diabetes has developed. One or more of the following symptoms may be associated with diabetes: Thirst, tiredness, weight loss, frequent urination. Amongst children, specific symptoms may include stomachaches, headaches and behavioral problems. Recurrent tummy pains and an unexplainable history of illness should be treated as possible heralds of diabetes.

What Can The Parents of Children With Diabetes Do?

Keeping a strict eye on the blood glucose levels of your child, avoiding lows and highs, can be a large part of being a parent of a child with diabetes. Parents must be aware that children with diabetes have diet restrictions, and that their activity levels need to be closely monitored. Initially, and throughout the lifetime of the disease, diabetes can be a serious strain. Patients and their families alike should know that support is available.

Initially, the procedure for management and treatment of the disease can seem very complicated. Understanding how the disease affects your child, being adaptable and patient, are essential to successfully managing diabetes.

Some things to bear in mind include:

  • You should become familiar with the symptoms of low blood glucose, and also diabetic acidosis. As well as recognising these conditions, you should know what to do if they occur.

  • Monitor your child’s blood sugar levels, and as soon as they are old enough teach them how to do this. Similarly, as children become older they need to learn how to administer their own insulin injections.

  • Make sure that people know your son or daughter is diabetic, and that they also know what to do if the symptoms of low blood glucose manifest themselves.

  • Ensure that glucose is always available.

What Sort of Diet Should Children With Diabetes Eat?

Diabetics can eat exactly the same food as normal people: it is a myth that they can only eat food with no sugar for instance. However, diet is an extremely important consideration for any diabetic, particularly young diabetics. A dietician will be able to advise you further, but it is certainly essential that your child has a balanced and healthy diet, high in complex carbohydrates and fibre.

Although you will have to build your family meals around your diabetic relation, there is no reason why this has to be a problem. A healthy diet benefits anyone. The quantities of food that your child can enjoy depend entirely on his or her size and age, and will be established by the dietician and parents.

It is up to both you and your child to understand how their body copes with different foods, avoiding the ones that are negative. It is necessary to be careful with sweet food, but it need not be 100 per cent off the menu.

What Kind of Exercise Should Children With Diabetes Do?

Exercise is the second major factor in controlling type 2 diabetes, and it is incredibly important for all children suffering from diabetes. Recommendations stand that children with diabetes should try to exercise every day. However, parents should be aware that physical activity lowers blood sugar levels.

It may be necessary for your child to reduce their dose of insulin, as in conjunction with exercise it can significantly lower blood sugar levels and result in hypos. When carrying out physical exercise your child should be near sugar. Physical activity also governs how much your child can eat.

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