If your child is diagnosed with diabetes, you may be concerned about how to explain the condition in an age-appropriate way. The Diabetes Research Institute offers these simple explanations that may make it easier to talk with your child. Your doctor or diabetes educator, too, can help explain diabetes to your child.
What is diabetes? Diabetes means too much sugar, or glucose, in the blood. Sugar comes from the foods we eat, like bread, cereals, pasta, rice, fruit, starchy vegetables and dairy items. Sugar is used by the body for energy: to run, skip, play and swim.
Insulin is a hormone that is made in an organ called the pancreas. It works like a key to a door. Insulin opens the door of the cells of our body, allowing the sugar to go from the bloodstream into the cells, where it is used for energy. If there is not enough insulin or if the insulin can’t open the door to the cell, the sugar levels rise in the blood and diabetes occurs. (And guess what? Even animals can get diabetes!) You do not get diabetes from eating too much sugar and you do not “catch” it from sitting next to someone with diabetes.
As a result of the high blood sugar, you might feel thirsty, tired, hungry, have to go to the bathroom frequently or have blurry vision.
The happy news is that diabetes can be treated. Having a healthy eating plan and doing regular exercise are keys to staying well with diabetes. In Type 1 diabetes, insulin injections (shots) with a very tiny needle are needed to control the blood sugar levels. In Type 2 diabetes, pills and/or insulin injections may be needed. In both types of diabetes, daily blood-sugar checks using a meter help us know if the plan is working or needs adjusting.
Work with your doctor and a diabetes educator to reassure your child that many children live with diabetes and that you, as a parent, will be there to help and support him all the way!