Type 1 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes in children. Glucose is a sugar that comes from the foods we eat, and it's also formed and stored inside the body. It's the main source of energy for the cells of our body, and it's carried to each cell through the bloodstream. Insulin is a hormone that allows the glucose to get into the cells. In type 1 diabetes, the body can no longer make insulin, so the glucose can't get into the body's cells. This causes the blood glucose level to rise. 90-95% of under 16s with diabetes have this type. There is no known cure for diabetes mellitus type 1.             

 During the last 30 years there has seen a threefold increase in the number of cases of childhood diabetes. As with adults, the cause of childhood diabetes is not understood. The majority of children who develop Type 1 don't have a family history of diabetes. The main symptoms are the same as in adults and include: thirst, weight loss, tiredness and frequent urination. Symptoms that are more typical for children include: tummy pains, headaches and some behaviour problems. Doctors should consider the possibility of diabetes in any child who has an otherwise unexplained history of illness or tummy pains for a few weeks. Most children with diabetes need insulin treatment. If this is the case, your child will need an individual insulin routine, which will be planned with the diabetes team.            

Physical activity is important for children with diabetes, who should try to exercise every day. Physical activity lowers the blood sugar level, so if a child takes insulin, she/he may need to reduce the dose. This is because a combination of too much insulin and exercise can lower the blood sugar level and lead to hypoglycemia. To counter this, the child should always carry sugar. Physical activity also affects how much a child can eat. Before the child exercises or plays sport, give him/her extra bread, juice or other carbohydrates. Encouraging a child with diabetes to exercise may make parents uneasy, but exercise actually helps insulin work better in the body.       

A trained dietician should be one of the members of the hospital diabetes team. It's important to give the child a healthy balanced diet that is high in fibre and carbohydrates. How much the child should eat depends on age and weight and the dietician and parents should determine this together. The best diet for people with type 1 diabetes is low in fat, low in salt and low in added sugars. It has lots of complex carbohydrates (like cereals), fruits and vegetables. This diet will help control blood sugar level. Eating a balanced diet and following a meal plan are important components of a child's treatment for type 1 diabetes. Kids with diabetes also have to balance the type and timing of the food they eat with the amount of insulin they take and with their activity level. That's because eating some foods will cause blood sugar levels to go up more than others, whereas insulin and exercise will make blood sugar levels go down.

Meal plans typically consist of breakfast, lunch, and dinner with scheduled between-meal snacks. The diabetes meal plan won't restrict the child to eating specific foods, but it will guide the parents in selecting choices from the basic food groups to achieve a nutritious balance. A meal plan is based on your child's age, activity level, schedule, and food likes and dislikes. It should also be flexible enough to accommodate special situations like parties and holidays. The meal plan should make it easier to keep your child's blood sugar within his or her goal range. A child's diabetes meal plan may also recommend limiting extra fat and "empty" calories (foods that contain lots of calories but few nutrients like vitamins and minerals eg soft drinks, sweets).


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