The cooler days of fall are almost here, which means the kids are going back to school. Parents of children with diabetes need to make additional preparations for a healthy and safe school year. Discover a few savvy school tips for children with diabetes.
- A person with diabetes must manage this chronic illness at all times. Talk with your child about proper diabetes self-management skills based on his or her age. Have your child ask the doctor/nurse any questions he or she might have. School staff such as nurses, coaches and teachers can work with you and your child on properly managing diabetes during the school year.
- Create a diabetes management plan with your child’s school. Meet with the staff to find out how the school helps care for students with diabetes. Review how they handle diabetes-related emergencies. The level of help your child needs is based on his or her age and condition. Assistance that may be provided by the school could include checking blood sugar levels, helping a child take medications, encouraging physical activity throughout the day, and helping the child select healthy foods. Schools that receive federal funding cannot discriminate against those with diabetes in accordance with the Individuals with Diabetes Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Proper accommodations must be made for your child with diabetes.
- Create a diabetes medical management plan with your child’s doctor and the school staff. Diabetes needs to be managed during school hours and extracurricular activities such as sports and field trips. School staff should know how to recognize high and low blood sugar levels, and what to do about them. If your child needs help with insulin or needs to eat snacks in the classroom, discuss implementation of these needs with school staff. Provide a list of key contacts to the school, including doctors and emergency contacts. Verify where and when your child can test blood sugar and administer medications on a schedule.
- Have your child wear a medical ID bracelet or necklace. Create a package of diabetes supplies for your child to carry in his or her backpack. Make sure the school has diabetes supplies on-hand for your child, and that they are stored at the proper temperatures. Supplies to have on-hand at school and in a backpack include water, insulin and syringes or pens, ketone testing supplies, antiseptic wipes and a blood glucose meter with extra batteries, testing strips and lancets. If your child wears an insulin pump, have backup insulin in case the pump fails. Insulin kept in a backpack should be stored in a temperature-controlled container. Your child should have glucose tablets and snacks to boost their blood sugar in an emergency. These snacks may include 4 to 6 ounces of regular soda, 3-5 pieces of hard candy and 2 tablespoons of raisins. Verify the school staff has a glucagon emergency kit, and can use it properly if your child has a low blood sugar emergency. Make sure your child knows where to go in an emergency.
- Prepare a healthy breakfast for your child each morning to help your child stay active and focused. Lunch should include foods such as whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy items and lean meats, as well as snacks – such as nuts and fruit. Tell your child to avoid the temptation of vending machines. Pack extra nuts and fruit for your child to snack on during the day. Review the school lunch menus to see if the choices are suitable for your child. Discuss lunch menus and meal plans with school personnel. Pack your child’s lunch if the options are not in accordance with your child’s diabetes self-management plan.
- Incorporate a minimum of 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity into your child’s day. Your child should be able to participate in physical education classes and extracurricular sports. Being active can help improve your child’s blood sugar control. Encourage your child to be active after school by going for a bike ride or taking walks together. Reduce the time your child spends on electronic devices such as the TV or computer to 1-2 hours each day.
- Advise your child to wash his or her hands before eating and after using the restroom. Talk to your child’s doctor to verify your child has recommended vaccinations – including the flu shot. It can take children with diabetes longer to recover from sicknesses. Vaccinations can help ward off illness and reduce the time your child misses school.
Children with diabetes can have a safe, productive school year with proper planning and the assistance of school staff. Provide the essential medical information to the school to ensure they have the resources needed for your child’s well-being. Talk to your child about diabetes self-management so he or she is well-prepared for the school days ahead.