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September 2008
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Back to School with Diabetes
Plan Ahead for a Smooth Start to School

Cartoon of mother and daughter discussing girl’s diabetes management plan

Notebooks, erasers, pencil sets and backpacks are on most kids’ back-to-school lists. But if your child has diabetes, you should add a few extra tasks to the list. At the top, put “good communication,” with your child and with the school. Planning ahead, and getting help from others, will help pave the way for a successful year.

Diabetes is a serious and lifelong condition, and it’s a growing problem among children and teens. About 186,000 Americans under age 20 have diabetes. Most have type 1 diabetes, which usually first appears during childhood. But in recent years a growing number of kids are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, a disease that used to strike mostly adults over age 45. Excess weight and inactivity put children and teens at risk for type 2 diabetes.

When you have diabetes, you have too much glucose in your blood. Over time, this excess glucose can damage both large and small blood vessels, leading to heart disease, stroke, nerve damage, blindness and kidney disease. That’s why people with diabetes must regularly check their blood glucose. They need to keep their level from dropping by using strategies like snacking. When their glucose is too high, insulin can help to bring it down. Essentially, they have to manage their blood glucose level 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

This intensive management can be daunting to kids during school. They may wonder: What happens if I feel light-headed, or need a snack in the middle of class? Will I be OK in gym class? When should I go to the nurse?

These are all issues that you should discuss ahead of time with school staff and with your child. Work with your child’s health care team to develop a written diabetes management plan that outlines your child’s specific medical needs. Make sure key staff members, like your child’s teacher, have a copy of the plan.

Heading back to school with diabetes can be a challenge. But by eating regular meals, making healthy food choices, staying active and taking medications, kids with diabetes can do all the things their friends do, and then some. With planning and good communication, you can help your child have a healthy and happy school year.

Wise Choices iconWise Choices
School Checklist for Diabetes

  • Tell the school principal that your child has diabetes. Set up a meeting with the school’s health team.
  • Develop a diabetes management plan with your child’s health care team. Give a signed copy of the plan to the school, and discuss how the plan will be put into action.
  • Give the school supplies for managing your child’s diabetes, including glucose-monitoring equipment, snacks, insulin and other medications.
  • Inform school staff of any changes to your child’s health status or emergency contact information.
  • Help your child take control. Discuss the diabetes management plan with your child. Encourage healthy food choices and physical activity.
  • Make sure your child wears a medical alert ID and carries a fast-acting source of glucose, like juice or glucose pills, as prescribed by your physician.


Definitions iconDefinitions

A disease in which blood glucose levels are too high. In time, it can lead to serious problems including heart disease, blindness and kidney failure.

A type of sugar used by the body for energy. When the glucose level in the blood gets too high, it can damage tissues and organs.

A hormone needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy. Diabetes develops when the body can’t produce or properly use insulin.

Links iconWeb Sites

National Diabetes Education Program: Resources on Children and Adolescents

Overview of Diabetes in Children and Adolescents

When Your Child is Diagnosed with Diabetes

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