Juvenile Diabetes and Sports
Whether your child has just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes or has had it for awhile, chances are that your anxiety level rises when he's on the soccer field, up at bat, or dribbling around the basketball court. You worry that your child's blood sugar will drop too low without his being aware of it, or that he didn't have a big enough pre-game snack, or that he might not be drinking enough water.
But kids with diabetes can be every bit as successful at sports as children who don't have diabetes, according to the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. At one JDRF Children's Congress, kids with type 1 said they engaged in dozens of different activities, from varsity football and snowboarding to skiing, skating and wrestling.
The health benefits of playing a sport are tremendous, according to the JDRF and other medical experts. "Exercise acts like insulin in the body and lowers blood sugar," explains Dr. Radhika Muzumdar, endocrinologist at Children's Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center. "It helps with blood pressure and makes kids feel good."
Just as important, she says, is the fact that playing sports allows kids with type 1 diabetes to lead a normal life.
Whatever sport your child chooses to play, it's crucial to take a few simple precautions. Kids with type 1 need to be careful about how long and how intensely they exercise, according to the JDRF. The goal is to avoid hypoglycemia during or after your child plays sports.
Here's how to help your child be at his best during sports:
Check the blood sugar before the activity begins, says Muzumdar. If it is less than 100, make sure your child has a snack before playing. If it is more than 250 and your child is spilling ketones into the urine, she should avoid playing a sport at that time. "When this happens, we tell them to take insulin, drink enough fluids and avoid all exercise except maybe walking," Muzumdar says. If the blood sugar is not higher than 300 and there are no ketones, they can still play but "tell them to be cautious," says Muzumdar.
Drink plenty of fluids, especially on a hot day, she says. "Dehydration and exercise, on a hot day, can elevate the blood sugar," Muzumdar says. "Offer your child water, or maybe Crystal Light or a diet fruit juice." But hold off on caffeine-containing drinks--that means no iced tea--since caffeine acts as a diuretic and can be dehydrating.
Observe your child during the game. If there are changes in behavior, check the blood sugar and make sure it's not dropping. "Parents can be very good sensors," Muzumdar says. "Crying, fighting and acting inappropriately can be symptoms of low blood sugar."
Offer something that can elevate the blood sugar right away, if your child's sugar is below 60 (this is indicative of hypoglycemia, says Muzumdar) , like four ounces of juice or some glucose tablets. But this should be accompanied by a substantial snack that will keep the blood sugar up. Half a sandwich or a whole sandwich or crackers and cheese are appropriate snacks, she says.
Keep glucose tablets or hard cardies if you're a coach of a team with a child who has type 1 diabetes. Blood glucose monitoring equipment should be always be available, as should the player's personal supplies.
Finally, stop worrying. Your child's out there on the field with his friends and having fun. So relax and enjoy just being a fan.
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