Coping with different situations can be tricky when you have a child with diabetes. Dr. Saf from Imperial College, London has reassuring answers for parents.
Imperial College London Diabetes Centre is a state-of-the-art out-patient facility that specialises in diabetes treatment, research, training and public health awareness. The centre was established in Abu Dhabi by Mubadala Healthcare, in partnership with the UK’s Imperial College London in 2006 to address the growing demand for diabetes care in the UAE. A second facility in Al Ain opened in 2011. Together, the centres have offered diabetes prevention, education and treatment to more than 160,000 people. ‘Diabetes-Knowledge-Action’ is Imperial College London Diabetes Centre’s award-winning public health awareness campaign. It was launched in 2007 under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak.
We travel a lot, and love the outdoors, how can we handle my child’s diabetes in various situations?
The best advice is to plan ahead, especially if you flying. Flying or travelling in general presents new, albeit very manageable challenges for a child with type 1 diabetes. You must remember that those living with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can travel – diabetes is no barrier. It’s all about the preparations made, which can minimise any potential problems. It’s also worth remembering that a healthy diet for people with diabetes is the same as that recommended for everyone. Here are some handy tips for children travelling with diabetes:
• Carry ID that identifies diabetes, especially if you are carrying insulin for your child.
• Inform the staff when you check in to a hotel, just as a precaution in case your child becomes unwell during your stay.
• If you’re flying long distance, across different time zones and your child is on insulin, check with your doctor before travelling as the change in weather may affect how the insulin and blood glucose monitor work.
• When flying, place the diabetes medication/insulin in separate bags and keep some with you in your hand luggage in case your bags are lost.
• If you are carrying syringes and insulin in hand luggage, take a letter from your doctor.
• If your child uses a pump or a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), you must contact your airline before flying. Some airlines require you to notify them of your medical equipment in advance and fill in additional paperwork before you fly. If you don’t do this it’s possible that you might not be allowed to board the flight.
• There is some caution around the use of insulin pumps and CGMs aboard planes as it’s thought their wireless functionality may interfere with aircraft communication and navigation systems. Therefore you must be ready to remove the pump or CGM whilst on-board and administer insulin with an insulin pen for the journey. You would also need to test blood glucose levels manually with a standard blood glucose meter.
What advice do you give parents about diabetes?
Our specialists and paediatric diabetes care team at Imperial College London Diabetes Centre are able to share a whole array of advice, insights and experiences to support the management of diabetes. We help parents to come to terms with their child’s condition, so they can help their child do the same. Parents are encouraged to rally round support from willing friends and family. In addition, we have found that contact with other parents of children living with diabetes provides a wonderful opportunity for sharing experiences. Our regular Patient Health Education Forum is a great opportunity for all our patients to share stories with each other.
We also encourage and guide parents to set a good example by incorporating healthy practice. For example, adopt a balanced diet, take the stairs instead of the lift, walk to shops (if they are a short distance) instead of driving, and start regular recreational walking, together as a family.
Don’t forget that physical activity is important regardless of whether a person has type 1 diabetes. Teaching a child early on about the value of exercise will likely stay with them in adulthood and provide a range of health benefits.
But at the same time, remember that physical activity impacts blood glucose levels, and you need to know how to respond to these changes if necessary.
Therefore, if you or your child has type 1 diabetes you should consult with your doctor before embarking on any exercise, especially if you have not been active previously. Your doctor will be able to guide you about how to safely incorporate exercise into your child’s daily routine.
Most importantly, it is well worth remembering that medication should not be viewed alone. All diabetes is best managed in combination with a healthy diet and daily exercise routine.
For more information on diabetes, visit www.icldc.ae.