Most parents are concerned about buying school supplies and clothes when their children go back to school. Parents need to make additional preparations when they have a child with Type 1 diabetes. Consider these back to school tips to ensure your child is healthy and safe at school.
- A child with Type 1 diabetes has a chronic condition that must be properly managed. Try to enlist the assistance of teachers, nurses and coaches to work with you and your child. School staff may need to help your child check blood sugar levels, take medications and select healthy foods as well as encourage physical activity. Give your child increasing responsibility as they age. Meet with the staff before school starts to discuss how students with diabetes are handled and what they do in emergencies. Work with your child’s doctor and school staff members to create a diabetes medical management plan. Be aware of your child’s legal rights in accordance with the Individuals with Diabetes Education Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Pack your child’s backpack with diabetes supplies to manage diabetes and low or high blood sugar. The school nurse or other staff members might have to hold these supplies for younger children. Supplies should include a blood glucose meter with lancets, testing strips and extra batteries, antiseptic wipes and bottled water as well as ketone testing supplies, glucose tablets and insulin pens or syringes. If your child wears an insulin pump, include backup insulin and syringes for emergencies. Insulin pumps can make it easier to ensure your child is getting the proper level of insulin all day. Also pack snacks with fast-acting carbohydrates such as jelly beans or hard candy. Verify the school nurse has a glucagon emergency kit with instructions for low blood sugar situations.
- Discuss age-appropriate diabetes management skills with your child. Make sure your child is comfortable monitoring his or her own blood sugar. If a school staff member will do it, make sure your child knows when and where testing will be done. Verify your child knows how to get help with high or low blood sugar emergencies. Review healthy food choices with your child such as whole grains, lean meats and low fat dairy as well as fresh vegetables and fruits. Encourage your child to snack on foods such as nuts and fruits to keep blood sugar in check. Discuss with your child the need to avoid junk food typically found in vending machines.
- People with diabetes need a minimum of 30 minutes of daily physical activity. Your child should participate in physical education classes. Talk to the gym teacher about your child’s situation in case of emergencies. When your child comes home, encourage physical activity such as riding bicycles together or taking a walk. Minimize the time spent on sedentary activities such as playing computer games and watching television.
- Children with diabetes can get sick longer than other kids. When kids go back to school, they are exposed to sick classmates. Schedule a physical exam before school starts and inquire whether your child has had all necessary vaccinations. Tell your child to wash his or her hands often during the day. Pack antibacterial wipes in case your child can’t get to a sink.
When the warm days of summer end, your child returns to school and needs help while they are away from you. Develop a diabetes medical management plan with your child’s doctor and school staff and educate your child about self-management of diabetes. Proper preparation helps your child maintain healthy blood sugar levels and minimizes the possibility of emergencies.