Q: We live in one of those great neighborhoods where all the kids still roam around playing together “until the streetlights come on.” Now that our 8-year-old son has type 1 diabetes, is this loosely supervised playtime still okay?
A: One of the key messages for families to hear after a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes is that children can still take part in almost any activity they enjoyed before, usually with the addition of just a few extra steps to keep blood sugar levels within range.
In practical terms, this means being prepared to check your son’s blood sugar levels frequently, at least in the beginning, especially to monitor for lows. Before he heads out to play, set times for him to come inside for blood sugar checks. To make this a little easier, you may want to invite the neighborhood kids to play in your yard at first. As you begin to understand how playtime affects his numbers — and you become skilled in things like figuring out the best time for him to have a snack or how to adjust insulin in light of physical activity — you will likely feel more confident about your son staying safe as he partakes in his normal activities.
Frequent monitoring is also important for your son as he learns how to recognize physical symptoms that can tell him he is headed for a low or high. If he comes inside for a blood sugar check and the number is low, as you go about correcting this with a snack, talk to him about how he felt just before he came in, so he can see how this connects with his blood sugar reading. Did he notice that he was feeling shaky or dizzy? Was he hungry or acting a little grouchy? Likewise, if he has a high, did he notice that he had to go to the bathroom, or is he really thirsty? Let him know how he should respond in the future when he notices these kinds of symptoms.
Have your son wear a medical alert bracelet and carry a rapidly-absorbed carbohydrate with him as well. And since you live in such a close-knit neighborhood, be sure to let other parents know about your son’s diabetes to make sure that, if needed, a helping hand is ready to offer assistance.
–Christina Ring, A.R.N.P., M.S.N., C.D.E., F.A.A.D.E., is an advanced registered nurse practitioner and certified diabetes educator in the pediatric endocrinology department at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Fla.
How Other Parents Deal
“When our son was first diagnosed three years ago, we invited his friends over to the house a lot. It helped him feel social again, but it was also good for his friends to see his basic care routines and be able to ask questions about diabetes. Now that he’s a little older, I feel more comfortable with his increasing independence, because his close friends are actually very knowledgeable about things like his need to check blood sugar or have a snack and the kinds of symptoms that might mean he’s in trouble.”
–Reena, mom of 10-year-old Alex
Disclaimer: The information in these articles is not intended as medical advice. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding individual care.