It's August, and many sports teams are starting to gear up for the new school year. Good news: Your child's type 1 diabetes shouldn't keep him or her sidelined from all the fun. In fact, sports can really pay off for kids with type 1. While there are important considerations that need to be taken into account when your active child has diabetes, the benefits of exercise are many, including lower blood sugar, blood pressure, and stress levels, improved muscle tone and heart health, increased strength, help with weight control, better mood, and higher self-confidence and self-esteem.
Choose a Sport
Team sports like baseball or basketball are great for kids with type 1 diabetes, since they have regular, natural breaks where kids can check blood sugar or have a drink and a snack. That's what Christina Coleman found when her 7-year-old daughter Brynn wanted to play soccer. "We took care of Brynn ourselves from the sidelines," Coleman says. "We armed ourselves with a test kit, carb and non-carb snacks, and drinks. We checked her during the game. It was really not that difficult for us."
Certified Diabetes Educator Marlisa Brown, RD, says there is no sport that kids with type 1 can't do—but each comes with its own factors to consider. "For example, if your kid is going to go on a long-distance run or bike-riding for 25 miles, those take planning."
It's important to talk to your child's doctor before starting a sport. "Exercise can affect blood sugar, so your doctor may want to adjust your child's insulin dosage or meal plan, or change your testing schedule," says Brown. Different types of exercise have different effects on blood sugar, and each individual child's levels react differently. That's why it's so important to monitor glucose before, during and after exercise. Be sure that participation in school sports are covered in your 504 Plan. Then, talk with the coach. Give him or her written instructions on how to identify and treat low blood sugar, and what to do in the event of an emergency.
Finally, make sure your child comes prepared to every game. That means bringing testing supplies and medications, as well as snacks, juice, water, and glucose tablets. Always wear medical identification. If metal jewelry is not allowed, nylon wristbands are an option. Talk to your coach about what can be worn during play and practice.
Kids with type 1 can succeed at sports the same as any others. Sure, it takes some prep and planning—but the benefits are more than worth it.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the "typical" experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.