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By Dr Hannah Mortimereducational psychologist.

Children who have diabetes usually manage to keep it under control, however there may be a time when you need to help out



What you need to know

  • Diabetes is caused when there is not enough insulin produced in the body. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas. It is responsible for glucose metabolism and it helps us to store glucose ready for when energy is needed.
  • There are about 15 to 20 children per 100,000 diagnosed with diabetes each year and this is increasing.
  • There are two forms of diabetes; one affecting children and young adults and one starting in middle age. Most children have Type 1 or ‘insulin dependent diabetes mellitus’ in which the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas have been destroyed.
  • It can start quite suddenly at any age, and it can run in families.
  • The first symptoms you might notice are excessive thirst, large amounts of urine being passed frequently, weight loss, irritability and tiredness, an unusual smell of pear drops to the breath and a reduced resistance to infections.
  • It is diagnosed through a blood test and children are usually prescribed regular insulin to control their blood sugar.
  • Many older children give insulin injections to themselves and can also learn how to test their blood and urine sugar levels.
  • If the child’s blood sugar level falls too low, this is called a hypoglycaemic episode or a ‘hypo’.

How to help

  • Many children who have diabetes have the condition under control and it should not affect your time together in school, apart from the need to look out for a sugar ‘hypo’.
  • Hypo symptoms include hunger, sweating, drowsiness, pallor, glazed eyes, shaking poor concentration and irritability.
  • These symptoms can be treated using sugary drink or chocolate, as agreed with medical staff and parents or carers.
  • Most parents and carers will send in snacks that might be necessary before the child does physical exercise. They might ask you to have sugary drink on hand for their child at these times.
  • Make sure that the child never misses a meal or snack time.
  • If parents and carers need you to check sugar levels and this has been agreed with the school, let them show you how to use the equipment.
  • Let parents and carers know when there are infections in your school; sometimes this means different insulin requirements.
  • Make sure that catering staff know any implications. Even if a child brings packed lunches, there will be occasions such as celebrations when snack choices suitable for diabetic children might be needed.