Infants and Toddlers with Diabetes: Tips for Caregivers

It’s not easy caring for an infant or toddler with type 1 diabetes since they cannot communicate verbally about how they’re feeling.

The following tips for managing diabetes in infants and toddlers, from the Diabetes Research Institute, are offered to make the experience less anxiety provoking for child and parent.

14 Tips for Parents/Caregivers

  1. Although we don’t want to cause our children distress, never sneak up on them with self blood glucose monitoring (SBGM) or insulin injections. Doing this may teach children to be wary any time a parent approaches them. Calmly state your intentions and talk your child through these procedures.
  2. To minimize SBGM discomfort, use the child’s less sensitive heels instead of their tender fingers.
  3. When possible, allow toddlers to assist with SBGM and insulin injections. You might, for instance, let them pick the site for an injection, or a glucose check.
  4. Setting up a “diabetes station” in your home for glucose checks and injections is a good idea, but do not make it at or near the child’s bed. Their bed should remain a comfort zone.
  5. If the insulin injections seem to be painful, review your technique with the health care team. Utilizing ice, a numbing cream, or a device such as “inject ease” might be recommended to minimize discomfort.
  6. Know the required amount and kind of foods/fluids to treat blood sugar lows; for infants and toddlers this might be as little as five to ten grams of carbs (whatever your doctor recommends). Oral syringes work well for delivering syrupy fluids. If a child is unconscious, never give him or her anything by mouth; turn the child on their side and call 911.
  7. Behavior changes are often the first sign of glucose changes (usually a low) so check blood sugar levels when they act out of sorts. Other low glucose indicators are sweating, shaking, a particular cry, and out of the ordinary unsteadiness.
  8. Indications of high blood sugar are an increase in the frequency of fussiness, sleepiness, infections, and diaper changes.
  9. Keep in mind that blood sugar levels go down with increased activity. Busy toddlers may need additional carbs during active periods of their day.
  10. Do not use food to reward your child; instead use extra play time, stickers, toys, hugs, and kisses.
  11. During an illness there is increased risk for glucose elevation, so check your infant’s and toddler’s blood sugar more often when they are sick. Encourage them to drink fluids, and be on the lookout for signs of dehydration (e.g., fewer wet diapers, dry looking mouth).
  12. Make sure you have an accessible diabetes care team in place to answer any questions and address your concerns.
  13. To prevent the responsibility from falling on one person, it is preferable to get all family members involved in your child’s diabetes care.
  14. Be sure to get the support you need by sharing your anxious thoughts and feelings with friends, family members, or your health care team, and consider joining on online or in-person support group.

Though it likely goes without saying, never make a change in your child’s prescribed diabetes treatment routine (e.g., glucose monitoring, insulin administration) before talking it over with your physician.

Source: Diabetes Research
Photo credit: Jamie Beverly

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