If you or someone you know has diabetes, you probably understand that the condition can be challenging to live with. Now imagine you’re a school-aged child. All of a sudden, a carefree childhood just got a lot more complicated. This is the plight of an estimated 283,000 American children and adolescents under age 20.
Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to help your child manage diabetes at school. In short, it’s all about planning, sharing, and educating. In this blog, the providers at Generations Family Practice in Cary and Raleigh, North Carolina, explain how you can help your child manage their diabetes in a school setting.
The basics of diabetes
When you eat, the food is turned into sugar, and this sugar is used for energy. However, in order for this sugar to be used as energy, insulin is needed to help move the sugar from your blood and into your cells.
If you have diabetes, one of two things happens: Either your body doesn't produce insulin (Type 1 diabetes), or your body doesn’t properly use the insulin it does produce (Type 2 diabetes). Either way, the sugar stays in your blood, which leads to high blood sugar levels.
If not treated, high blood sugar levels can cause many problems throughout the body.
Managing diabetes at school
Although a diabetes diagnosis may be scary for both you and your child, with some tools and careful planning, you can help your child acclimate to their condition and help those around them care for them.
Create a management plan
A great place to start is to create a written diabetes medical management plan or DMMP. This plan is essentially a personalized description of how diabetes manifests in your child and what your child and those around them need to do to manage and treat the condition.
This plan should include important information, such as:
- How much help your child needs in monitoring their blood sugar
- What their target blood sugar range is
- How much insulin they need and what other medications they need
- The typical symptoms your child exhibits when their blood sugar gets too low
- What to do if their blood sugar drops too much
- Meal and snack requirements
- How exercise and physical activity can impact their blood sugar levels
The details are very important, because diabetes looks a little different in each child.
Share the plan with school staff
Like every carefully made plan, it must be shared with all stakeholders in order for it to be effective. Before the first day of school, make sure to meet with the principal, school nurse, teachers, school bus drivers, gym teachers, and anyone else who would be responsible for your child’s health and safety.
It’s important to meet with these people not only to share your child’s DMMP, but also to better understand the rules and protocols when it comes to handling and administering medication on school grounds.
Create “hypo” kits for low-sugar emergencies
Another important tool for your in-school diabetes management strategy is to create a “hypo” kit. Short for hypoglycemia — which is the medical term for excessively low blood sugar levels — a hypo kit is a to-go box equipped with all the resources necessary if your child’s sugar levels become dangerously low or if they become unconscious.
Typical items stocked in a hypo kit includes testing supplies, such as a blood sugar monitor, lancets, and test strips, as well as glucagon or glucose tablets, juice boxes, and crackers. Since you’ve included your child’s low blood sugar symptoms in the diabetes medical management plan, teachers and school staff can be on the lookout for signs of an issue.
And, with the supplies in the hypo kit and instructions in the DMMP, they can swing into action in emergencies. The hypo kit should be marked with your child’s name and stored in the nurse’s office. Check with the school on whether a second hypo kit can be stored in a primary classroom.
Here at Generations Family Practice, you don’t have to go it alone. Our caring medical team can help you put together a DMMP, and we can also share other resources to help you care for your child. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Generations Family Practice today.