At karate today, all the other kids are happily kicking and punching in unison. My 7-year-old James is lying on the floor not participating and being particularly obnoxious about it. I sit on the sidelines concerned and stressed, but not utterly surprised. You see, before karate that afternoon, a test revealed high blood sugar.
We are fortunate because the occasions that James has had to sit out physical activity due to high blood sugars have been fairly rare. Much more frequently, we have to make sure that we have plenty of fast-acting sugar around as his blood glucose levels tend to drop like a rock when he’s exercising intensely. During the height of basketball season, it isn’t unusual to go through three juice boxes—one before, one during and one after class.
It’s often hard to sit on the sidelines and watch his sports escapades—not only in terms of how many baskets he is making or how well he is mastering a skill, but also with the constant flow of internal questions about how his blood sugar is holding up and whether or not he needs another juice box.
Two things have been helpful to me. First is getting to know James and how he responds to things like physical activity, and how he manifests his lows and his highs. This is a trial and error process, and it isn’t easy to patiently wait on the sidelines to see his body’s reactions—but I’m so grateful he has the opportunity and ability to run and play with his friends.
Second is good communication with the coach and sensei. James’ basketball coach doesn’t even bat an eye if I call him over for a blood sugar test. He understands completely that low blood sugar can be dangerous and makes that part of the plan for the practice. It has never been a big deal to test in the middle of practice..
Our karate sensei runs a much more structured class. One thing I really like about the class is that he is always in complete control. However, this has also made it much more challenging to do blood sugar checks as they tend to be much more distracting. We test James before class, and I’ll test him if I think he is dropping low. Luckily, by watching from the sidelines I can usually avert a problem before it happens!
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.