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Learning About Children and Diabetes at School

How can you make managing diabetes at school easier for your child?

Learning how to manage their diabetes at school can be a big challenge for children. It may also bring changes to their school day as they learn to find time to care for their illness. But it can also be an opportunity for them to start taking more responsibility for their own health.

Part of that means learning how to eat the right foods at the right times and get lots of exercise. It can also mean teaching classmates what diabetes is and what the shots and blood sugar meters are for.

You can help your child by working with him or her to create a diabetes care plan for school. And you can keep your child's teachers, coaches, and other school staff informed about how to give diabetes care and manage blood sugar emergencies. A care plan will help you share this information with school staff.

What is a diabetes care plan?

A diabetes care plan lists all the information that the school staff needs to know to help keep your child's diabetes under control. The goal of the plan is to meet your child's daily needs and prepare for any problems.

The plan includes information on:

  • Meals and snacks. Help your child learn to make good meal and snack choices at school. This includes having snacks on hand if your child misses a meal.
  • Insulin and testing. Include information on insulin injections and on blood sugar and ketone testing.
  • Symptoms to watch for. Describe your child's symptoms of low and high blood sugar and how to treat the symptoms. The symptoms may be different than those of other children.
  • Who to call. Include contact information for family members, other caregivers, and the doctor. Explain clearly when to call 911 for help in case of an emergency.

In addition to the plan, give the school staff the right supplies to care for your child, including:

  • A home blood sugar test.
  • Insulin and syringes.
  • Glucagon (if it's in the plan).
  • Materials to test for ketones.

For older children who take insulin to school, check whether the 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 can you help your child eat right at school?

If your child takes insulin, make sure that the diabetes plan has information about snacks. Teachers and coaches need to know that snacks keep your child's blood sugar at the right level. Tell them that they shouldn't prevent your child from having snacks. And tell them when your child usually needs snacks—for example, before, during, or after exercise.

Your child can eat regular school lunches. Help your child learn to make the best food choices.

Ask the school to let you know ahead of time if meals will be delayed because of special school activities, such as parties or trips. Then you can adjust your child's insulin or snack schedule to prevent a low blood sugar episode.

Have your child carry a quick-acting source of carbohydrate to eat if his or her blood sugar gets too low. These include:

  • Foods that raise blood sugar very fast, such as glucose tablets or juice.
  • Foods that raise blood sugar more slowly, such as pretzels, snack crackers, or a sandwich.

It's a good idea to ask your child's teacher to keep snacks like these close by.

How can you help child get enough exercise?

Children with diabetes can participate in sports just like children without diabetes. Each child will react differently during physical activity. Children who use insulin are at risk for low blood sugar during and after exercise.

Good planning means checking blood sugar before, during, and after exercise. Keep a record of how exercise affects your child's blood sugar level. Using your records, you can learn how to predict how your child will react to physical activity.

What else should you think about?

Make the staff at your child's school full members of the team to keep your child's diabetes under control. Keep them up to date on changes in your child's condition, and ask for their thoughts on how to keep your child healthy.

Where can you learn more?

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