With the rise of Type II diabetes in children, many childcare providers are helping to manage this life-threatening condition. If you are not familiar with diabetes, here are 5 terms that are important to understand when caring for children with diabetes.

1. Diabetes is a disorder of the endocrine system in which the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin, or the body does not use insulin effectively.

Insulin is a hormone that regulates the body’s blood glucose levels. Normal blood sugar for a person without diabetes is 60-100. People with diabetes should be maintained at 70 – 110. If the body does not produce enough insulin, or the body does not use the insulin effectively, then the blood glucose levels will rise above the normal levels and cause medical complications. When blood glucose gets too high, the blood becomes thick and sticky – like syrup. This makes it tougher for the blood to flow, slowing the flow of oxygen and nutrients. This can lead to stasis ulcers, decreased wound healing, kidney damage, decreased or lost sensation in the extremities, damage to the retinas and vision loss, and damage to the heart and the vascular system.

2. Hyperglycemia is high blood glucose, better known as high blood sugar.

Frequent hunger, thirst, and urination are signs that a child may be diabetic and a physician should be consulted. Severe thirst, hunger, frequent urination, sleepiness, feeling hot, and blurred vision are all signs of increased blood sugar.

3. Hypoglycemia is low blood glucose, better known as low blood sugar.

Hypoglycemia can be life-threatening and can lead to coma or death. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include cold, clammy skin, confusion, dizziness, loss of consciousness, shakiness, anxiety, and heart palpitations. When low blood sugar occurs, a quick-acting sugar should be administered – such as 4 ounces of regular soda or 100% fruit juice, 5 lifesavers, glucose tabs, or if the child is unconscious, glucose gel to prevent choking. A half of a sandwich with lunch meat or peanut butter should then be provided for protein to maintain glucose levels.

4. Carb Counting.

One key to keeping a diabetic child healthy is to ensure that the blood glucose levels stay consistent and in range. Since carbohydrates turn into sugars, it is important to track carbohydrates so that children receive the right balance to maintain function and healthy glucose.

Counting carbs is rather simple. Every 15 grams of carbohydrates equals 1 carb choice. Carb choices should be eaten at intervals over the day and cannot be saved up. For children under 5, they should get 2-3 carb choices per meal. For children between ages 5-12, 3-4 carb choices should be consumed at each meal. Teenage boys need between 4 and 5 carb choices per meal, while teenage girls usually need 3-5 carb choices, depending on their activity levels. Snacks should contain 1-2 carb choices. These proportions should be followed unless otherwise recommended by a registered dietitian or physician, preferably trained in endocrinology.

5. Blood Glucose Test.

To test the amount of sugar in the blood, diabetics use a blood glucose test. This test uses a blood glucose meter, test strips, alcohol wipes, and lancing device so that blood sugar can be tested at any time. While all blood glucose meters work similarly, you must learn how to use your child’s diabetic meter. A demonstration is available in the shared video.

Insulin injection pens or insulin pumps are used to give insulin for controlling blood sugar. For children with diabetes, their medications should be given as per the physician’s orders. If no treatment is due and the child’s blood glucose is high, a physician should be contacted. Extra medication should not be given without the physician’s order. Being sick can increase stress, and thus increase blood sugar so blood sugar should be monitored carefully during any times of illness.

For more information about caring for children with diabetes, a Nutrition and Health course is available within the Specialist Childcare Certification Program from the US Nanny Institute. This is one of several comprehensive nanny training programs available online.

About the Author. Dr. Alexandrea Murr earned her Doctorate of Nursing Practice from the University of Toledo, Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Phoenix, and Bachelor of Art in Art from Buffalo State College. Dr. Murr is a Board Certified Nurse Executive and works in private practice in New York. Dr. Murr is also an adjunct faculty member of the Nanny Institute, an organization dedicated to professional training and certification of elite Nannies, Au Pairs, Babysitters, and other childcare providers.