When you hear someone has diabetes, it’s important to know what type. Children and teens with diabetes generally have type 1, previously known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas can no longer produce any or enough insulin. Therefore, the treatment of type 1 diabetes in children is the administration of insulin.
In Canada, type 1 diabetes represents 10 per cent of all diabetes – the other 90 per cent is type 2 diabetes which prior to recent years, was seen primarily in adults over 40 years of age. However, as a result of obesity, there has now been an increase in the incidence of type 2 diabetes in children.
What are the main symptoms of type 1 diabetes in children?
The symptoms of type 1 diabetes usually develop very rapidly, while the symptoms of type 2 diabetes can develop over months or years.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes include:
- Feeling very thirsty, and drinking a lot of fluids
- Needing to urinate frequently
- Feeling very hungry
- Sudden weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Fruity odour on breath
- Heavy or laboured breathing
How is type 1 diabetes in children treated?
The diabetes health care team will work with you and your child to determine the appropriate target blood glucose range. Children with type 1 diabetes need to inject insulin multiple times each day. This is administered through the use of an insulin pen or via an insulin pump.
Your child will also need to check his or her blood glucose levels at different times of the day. The frequency will be determined by the diabetes health care team.
Physical activity is also an important part of the diabetes management plan, but for children using insulin, adjustments may be needed, since physical activity can lower blood glucose levels. Your diabetes health care team can help your child learn how to reduce the risk of hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose) that can occur during or after exercise.
Are there food restrictions for children with diabetes?
Children with diabetes should be encouraged to follow a healthy diet, similar to people without diabetes. There is no such thing as a ‘diabetic diet’. Children can eat ‘regular’ food, but for those with type 1 diabetes, they need to administer an appropriate amount of insulin for the food they eat. The dietitian will work with your child to determine the right balance.
What is the long term outlook for children with diabetes?
Children with diabetes can live a long and healthy life and can do activities just like other children who do not have diabetes. Parents and caregivers play an important role when children are young, but as they transition to teenagers and young adults, it is important to ensure that they will be able to self-manage their diabetes. Start early by letting your child do as much of their care as possible, as appropriate for their given age and ability.
There is an increased risk for complications, the longer your child has had diabetes. You can help reduce the risk of these complications by helping your child reach their target blood glucose levels and ensuring that your child has regular appointments with the diabetes health care team.
Where to find support
Parenting a child with diabetes can be challenging. The health care team plays an important role in supporting all aspects of management, whether it be insulin medication adjustment, tips for sending children to school or camp, emotional support to manage the diagnosis and informing others, or discussions regarding when to consider an insulin pump.
Diabetes in children articles
- Menopause and diabetesDid you know that a woman spends 30% of her life in menopause and that a third to a half of all women alive today in Canada are in menopause or peri-menopause?
- Can diabetes be prevented in children?Not that long ago, it was believed that children were only affected by type 1 diabetes. The reality, however, is that there are now many more children with type 2 diabetes as well.
- What To Do When Your Child with Type 1 Diabetes Is SickJust like other children, when your child with type 1 diabetes is sick it can be challenging: missing work or trying to secure a doctor’s appointment, but it also presents an increased level of care.
- Meal planning for children with type 1 diabetesMeal planning for children with type 1 diabetes can be a true practice in patience. With the varying degrees of literature and information out there, it can be challenging to understand the Do’s and Don’ts of proper nutrition.
- Type 2 diabetes in children and teensYears ago, type 2 diabetes was a disease that only happened in adulthood. However, In recent years, type 2 diabetes in children is being diagnosed more often.
- Telling friends about a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes (juvenile diabetes)When adults are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, it is their right to decide who to tell. It is usually recommended to tell people with whom you spend a lot of time, such as workplace colleagues.
- Back-to-school tips for people with diabetesThe back-to-school period brings lots of new beginnings. New beginnings are exciting but also bring challenges, especially for students with diabetes in the later years of high school.
- Managing type 1 diabetes at birthday partiesYes, we know the very thought of your child going off to a party at someone else's home may at first fill you with horror: away from your control, over-excited, distracted by all the fun, and surrounded by an abundance of enticing high sugar and high carb treats.
- Support for people with a new diagnosis of type 1 diabetes (juvenile diabetes)In the past few months, I have been working with a woman who was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
- Diabetes and summer campSummer camp is part of the magic of childhood, bringing enchanting memories along with new friendships, greater confidence and new-found independence.