The new school year brings new friendships, and this means new faces when hosting your child’s next birthday party, sleepover or playdate.
Caring for children other than yours is always a big responsibility and it is critical to understand that children with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, need some extra care to make their stay comfortable and safe.
Dr Sherif El-Refee, Clinical Lead of Paediatric Services and Consultant Paediatrician in Endocrinology and Diabetes at Imperial College London Diabetes Centre says that parents can be the best source of information when it comes to looking after a diabetic child.
The medical expert has given the following tips to keep in mind when welcoming a child with diabetes into your home:
1. Align with parents on existing routines and protocols for emergencies
It is essential to contact the child’s parents for an understanding of their unique circumstances since every case is different. The parents will provide you with important information regarding their child and some tips for you to keep in mind.
Make sure to ask for information regarding the child’s insulin routine and familiarise yourself with any emergency procedures, as they can be crucial in a serious situation.
For some children, regularly keeping track of their blood glucose levels is a daily activity. This is normally done by either using a continuous blood glucose monitor (CGM) or a traditional finger prick. Usually, the child would be familiar with checking their blood sugar levels, but it might be a good idea to remind them if necessary.
Some CGM’s can be connected to parents’ mobile phones, providing continuous access to information regarding their child’s blood sugar levels. Check in with the child’s parents if this is the case and ask them to advise you if the child needs assistance.
2. Avoid excessive sun exposure
Protection, generally, from the summer heat is extremely important, and children with diabetes are no exception to this, as excessive sun and heat exposure could raise sugar levels.
If children are playing outdoors, encourage play in shaded areas. Be mindful of the hottest time of the day and ensure that sunscreen is applied frequently. Keep them hydrated with regular water intake and encourage them to wear sun-smart clothing and a hat.
3. Provide healthy foods and snacks
Eating healthy can make managing blood glucose easier since whatever the child eats will almost immediately affect their blood glucose levels. Fruits such as oranges, raspberries, avocados, apples, watermelon, and blackberries are great options to stock up on.
However, this doesn’t mean that the child should be restricted from eating sweets – you are meant to be hosting a fun gathering after all! Indulging in the odd sweet or dessert is fine so long as blood sugar levels remain in a healthy range; just check to see if additional insulin is required to process the treat.
Another medical expert, Dr Tawfik Muammar, Consultant Paediatric Diabetologist from Imperial College London Diabetes Centre, highlighted the importance of physical activity as well as maintaining an open line of communication to ensure the comfort of the child. He has advised parents to do the following:
4. Encourage physical activity
The benefits of exercise cannot be underestimated, especially for people with diabetes. It can help lower blood glucose levels and boost the body’s sensitivity to insulin, helping to counter insulin resistance.
First, check with the parent on the child’s capacity when it comes to engaging in physical activity to ensure that they are not exceeding their limits. Ensure that carbohydrate intake and insulin are monitored if the child is exerting themselves, adjust where necessary.
Considering the hot weather, it would be a good idea to encourage the children to engage in some sort of fun indoor physical activity. This can be anything like playing hide-and-seek, tag, dancing, or even a fun game of Twister.
5. Ensure that the child feels comfortable highlighting any concerns
There are many things you can do to try to ensure the child’s safety, however, it is extremely important to create an open and welcoming environment for the child to bring up any issues that they may be facing.
This could involve you checking in with them regularly, encouraging and praising them, listening and being present when they are speaking.
At the end of the day, a children’s gathering should be a fun experience for all. If you are ever in doubt about what to do, never hesitate to call up the child’s parents or caregivers for additional advice.
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