What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are above normal. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn't make enough insulin or can't use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugar to build up in your blood.
Diabetes can cause serious health complications including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2012)
Managing your child’s diabetes in the school
You have probably already bought the basic school supplies for sending your child back to school. But if your child has diabetes, you need to make additional preparations.
A person with diabetes must manage this chronic illness all the time, including during the school day. Staff such as nurses, teachers, and coaches can work with you and your child on managing diabetes. This assistance may include helping your child take medications, check blood sugar levels, choose healthy foods in the cafeteria, and be physically active. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013)
To help your child get ready for the first day of school and for the rest of the school year, here are a few key tips:
Create a diabetes management plan with the school
Meet with staff early in the school year to learn more about how the school helps students care for diabetes and handles any diabetes-related emergencies. Public schools and schools that receive federal funding are prohibited from discriminating against people with diabetes by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
You can work with your child's doctor and school staff to create a Diabetes Medical Management Plan. Having a plan helps your child and school workers with managing diabetes in school and during extracurricular activities. Be sure to include information on services the school will provide and how to recognize high and low blood sugar levels. Your child may need assistance with giving insulin and checking blood sugar levels, and also may need to eat snacks in the classroom. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013)
Check for necessary diabetes supplies
Your child must have access to supplies needed to manage diabetes and to treat any episodes of high or low blood sugar. You and your child can work together to create a care package to bring in his or her backpack. Supplies should include:
- blood glucose meter, testing strips, lancets, and extra batteries for the meter
- ketone testing supplies
- insulin and syringes/pens
- antiseptic wipes
- for children who wear an insulin pump, backup insulin and syringes/pens in case of pump failure
- glucose tablets or other fast-acting glucose snacks (a form of carbohydrate that will raise blood glucose levels relatively quickly when eaten). Here are examples of fast-acting carbohydrates that provide about 10 to 15 grams of carbohydrate:
- 3-5 pieces of hard candy
- 4-6 ounces of regular (non-diet) soda
- 4-6 ounces of orange juice
- 2 tablespoons of raisins
- 8 ounces of nonfat or low-fat milk
Also, be sure school workers have a glucagon emergency kit and know how to use it if your child experiences a low blood sugar emergency. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013)
Make sure your child can manage diabetes at a level appropriate for his or her age
If your child is going to monitor his or her blood sugar, ensure that he or she feels comfortable doing so. If a trained school employee will do the monitoring, be sure your child knows where and when to go for testing. Also, make sure your child knows who to go to for help with high or low blood sugar episodes. The actions to be taken should be in the Diabetes Medical Management Plan. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013)
Encourage your child to eat healthy foods
Prepare a healthy breakfast, which will help your child stay focused and active. If you send a lunch with your child, pack a healthy meal that contains whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables. Replace high-fat foods with low-fat options, such as low-fat turkey, reduced-fat cheese, and skim milk. Include healthy snacks, such as fruit, nuts or seeds, which your child can eat later in the day to avoid the vending machine and keep blood sugar under control. If your child buys meals at school, look at the cafeteria menus together to help him or her make choices that fit into a healthy meal plan. Many schools post their menus online, or you can request this information from school workers. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013)
Make sure your child gets at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day
Having diabetes does not mean that your child cannot be physically active or participate in physical education classes. In fact, being active can help your child improve his or her blood sugar control. Also, limit screen time—TV, video games and the Internet—to 1 to 2 hours a day. Being active at an early age establishes good habits for a lifetime and is a lot of fun. Encourage your child by being active together—doing such things as walking the dog, riding bicycles or playing basketball—and you will get the health benefits too.
Diabetes does not have to get in the way of your child's good experience at school. Remember, parents and schools have the same goal: to ensure that students with diabetes are safe and that they are able to learn in a supportive environment. Make sure school staff have the information and resources they need for your child's safety and health. Help prepare your child to manage diabetes when he or she returns to school. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2013)
FORMS FOR THE DIABETIC STUDENT: