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Diabetes in Children: Food Issues at School

Overview

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 frequent exercise. It can also mean teaching classmates what diabetes is and what the insulin and blood glucose (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 glucose emergencies. A care plan will help you share this information with school staff.

Diabetes care plan

A diabetes care plan for school is a document that includes information the school staff needs to keep your child safe. The goal is to meet your child's daily needs and prepare ahead of time for any problems.

The plan includes:

  • 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 this happens.
  • How to give insulin to your child and how much insulin to give.
  • When to check your child's blood glucose.
  • Symptoms to watch for. Describe your child's symptoms of low or high blood glucose and how to treat them.
  • Who to call. List parent(s), other caregivers, and your child's doctor. Explain 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 discuss the plan with the school staff at the start of each school year.

Food issues

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 glucose 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 good 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 glucose episode.

Have your child carry a quick-acting source of carbohydrate to eat if your child's blood glucose gets too low. These include:

  • Foods to treat a low blood glucose and raise blood glucose very fast, such as glucose tablets or juice.
  • Foods to eat to prevent a low blood glucose or after treating a low blood glucose, 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.

Credits

Adaptation Date: 8/19/2022

Adapted By: Alberta Health Services

Adaptation Reviewed By: Alberta Health Services

Adapted with permission from copyrighted materials from Healthwise, Incorporated (Healthwise). This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty and is not responsible or liable for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.