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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 the doctor or diabetes educator 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 for school is a document that includes information the school staff needs to know to help keep your child safe. The goal of the plan is to meet your child's daily needs and prepare for any problems.

The plan includes information on:

  • Foods your child can eat, how much, and when. For example, if your child needs to eat shortly after taking insulin, a teacher or other adult can make sure that this happens.
  • How to give insulin to your child, how much insulin to give, and how to store the insulin.
  • How often and when to test your child's blood sugar. Include when and how to test your child for ketones.
  • Symptoms to watch for. Your child's symptoms may be different from those of other children. Describe your child's symptoms of low or high blood sugar and how to treat them.
  • Who to call. List parent(s), other caregivers, and your child's doctor. You will also want to let school staff know when to call for help in case of an emergency.
  • How the school can provide a private place to take care of your child's diabetes needs.

It's a good idea to meet with the school staff at the start of each school year to discuss the care plan.

Along with the plan, give the school staff the right supplies to care for your child. These include:

  • A home blood sugar test.
  • Insulin and syringes or insulin pens.
  • Foods that raise blood sugar very fast, such as glucose tablets or juice.
  • Glucagon (if it's in the plan).
  • Materials to test for ketones.

For older children who take insulin to school, check with the school. It may have rules about students carrying their own medicines, needles, and blood sugar meters. Many schools require students to get special permission or to keep their supplies 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 your child's 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 your child exercise safely?

Children with diabetes can take part 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 to predict how your child will react to being active.

Where can you learn more?

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