Community support is an essential part of well-managed diabetes care in children.
According to Professor Abdul-Badi Abou- Samra, chairman of Internal Medicine at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) and director of the Qatar Metabolic Institute (QMI), this means educating a child’s entire support system about their condition.
Successfully managing the health of a child with diabetes requires ongoing support from paediatric healthcare providers and individuals in the child’s social network, including family, teachers and other school staff.
This support is particularly important for young children with Type 1 diabetes, as limited communication and motor skills, cognitive abilities and emotional maturity can challenge their ability to manage the disease, HMC has said in a statement.
“When a child has diabetes, preparing for school requires a little more planning. Children spend nearly half of their waking hours in school, so reliable diabetes care during the school day is extremely important to ensure the child is safe and remains healthy,” said Prof Abou-Samra.
While middle-school students may have the skills necessary to perform their own blood glucose monitoring and insulin injections, some supervision is usually required. In the case of younger children, adults will need to provide most, if not all, of the care.
Professor Abou-Samra says it is important that teachers and other school staff have the information and training they need to support the child while under their care. He emphasised that a diabetes diagnosis should not prevent a child from performing well at school but that it is crucial for teachers and other school staff to know specific signs to look for in the case of a diabetic emergency.
“Parents with diabetic children need to do their own homework. They should find a school that offers at least the minimum level of healthcare. They should plan to meet the school doctor or nurse as well as the child’s teachers and ensure they have detailed information about the child’s diet and medication. It may be necessary for parents to demonstrate how to administer their child’s medication. Parents are their child’s advocate and it is important for them to take an active role in ensuring the school has the necessary tools, such as a glucose metre, insulin, and glucose tablets,” said Prof Abou-Samra.
He added that parents should discuss playtime and physical activity with teachers, noting that exercise should be encouraged. Children with diabetes need to be physically active and exercise can make it easier to control blood sugar levels because it increases insulin sensitivity. However, school staff should be educated about the potential need for additional blood glucose monitoring and access to snacks before and during physical activity. He added that the psychological and emotional well-being of the child must also be an integral part of the diabetes care plan.
In recognition of World Diabetes Day, held annually on November 14, HMC has planned a full month of activities to highlight the importance of diabetes awareness, education, and research.
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