The school year provides a certain amount of structure that parents of children with type 1 diabetes can rely on. Snacks, lunch, and PE will always be at the same time each day, which provides a regularity quite conducive to diabetes management. But I’ll admit that during my daughter Quinn’s school year, I tire of all the thinking ahead that I have to do, such as writing out carb counts for lunch that day and sending in enough snacks on Monday to last through the week. Not to mention that I’m always on call, ready to spring into action if the nurse or classroom teacher beckons.
That said, just as there’s a transition at the beginning of the school year to the structured schedule, there is also a transition when school lets out for the summer and every day might be different. Luckily for our family, the grandparents watch our kids while we work. Although my parents are familiar with Quinn’s care, they too have an adjustment period each June as they get back into the swing of counting carbs and giving insulin. Here are a couple of the variables summertime brings for all of us and how we’ve learned to manage them.
The warm days of summer can throw off Quinn’s numbers. Not only can the heat affect her blood sugar, but she often plays so long and hard outside that she skips her regularly scheduled snack and ends up going low close to lunchtime. In our backyard, she’s too busy to stop for a snack and doesn’t want to interrupt the fun even if she’s feeling off. I have to remind her that if she’s feeling low, she needs to stop, test, and treat, and then she can get back to what she was doing.
One summer during soccer camp in 100-degree heat, it was especially tough to keep her blood sugar up. It took a sports drink, pretzels, and grapes just to keep her in range. And while an afternoon at the pool might also lower her blood sugar, daily evening swim lessons, on the other hand, send her blood sugar soaring. Since discovering this, we’ve developed a game plan with our endocrinologist to deal with it.
Last summer Quinn wanted to go to a day camp that, of course, did not have a nurse. Luckily, a teacher from her school and her teenage daughter, who also has type 1 diabetes, were on the camp’s staff and agreed to look out for Quinn. I trained her group leader as best as I could, showing her the supply bag and going over my instruction sheet. But not only did the kids have a snack time scheduled each morning, but they swam two times each day! It sounded like a lot to manage.
The camp was five minutes from my office, so I was on the ready. I will admit I felt sick to my stomach those first few mornings, but I felt strongly that my daughter have some “normal” childhood experiences despite diabetes. It ended up going well enough that this summer, she wants to go for three weeks in addition to attending overnight diabetes camp for the first time!
Freedom and Flexibility
I’ve learned that we need to adapt each year to the more casual days of summer while still making sure that Quinn’s type 1 diabetes is attended to. She still has to check her blood sugar and eat, even if she’s having fun playing outside with the neighborhood kids. She needs some of the freedoms and experiences that other kids have while on break, like exploring the trails when we go camping or attending day camp. It’s just a matter of learning and being proactive about how certain activities affect her blood sugar and training those who take care of her during the day. That and having my cell phone charged in case I need to give advice to Grandma, answer questions from camp counselors, or hop in the car to come help. Happy summer!
About the author: Leighann Calentine lives in the Midwest with her husband and two children, one of whom was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 3. She is the author of a book for parents of children with diabetes and can be found on D-Mom.com where she shares her family’s story.
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.