If you’re a parent whose child has been diagnosed with diabetes, chances are you’re always wondering how to make it easier for your little one to deal with this lifelong condition. Although diabetes can be a tough challenge to overcome, it is certainly manageable as long as you equip yourself with the proper knowledge on what you can do and technologies you can use.
We interviewed an expert and a parent to shine the light on this condition.
What you need to know about diabetes
According to Dr Kevin Tan, an endocrinologist and president of Diabetes Singapore, diabetes is a condition that occurs when blood sugar levels are too high. This is characterised by an interaction between glucose and insulin.
Glucose comes from the food we eat and is our main source of energy. Insulin, on the other hand, is a hormone that helps regulate the glucose levels in our blood. When the body doesn’t produce or utilise insulins well enough, glucose levels are not regulated well, causing diabetes.
The most common types of diabetes are as follows:
- Type 1 diabetes. This can affect people of all ages and even those with no family history of diabetes. It is caused by the destruction of the insulin producing cells in the pancreas by the body’s own immune system. Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes are likely to develop quickly. These include extreme hunger, increased thirst and frequent urination, presence of ants in areas where you urinate, weight loss, fatigue, irritability or behaviour changes, and a fruity-smelling breath which indicates that the disease has progressed.
- Type 2 diabetes. This is the most common form of diabetes globally, often caused by different factors such as family history, environmental factors, and dietary habits. Obesity is also known to be the main driver of Type 2 diabetes, which is characterised by bad dietary habits and a sedentary lifestyle. Type 2 diabetes normally doesn’t show any symptom except until one’s glucose level shoots up.
- Gestational Diabetes. This is a form of diabetes that is first discovered during pregnancy and caused by several factors including hormones, maternal age, family history, and being overweight. It usually disappears after delivery but can still occur in subsequent pregnancies and even later in life.
Avoiding diabetes: Concrete steps you can take
Unfortunately, once a child has been diagnosed with diabetes, curing it is no longer possible. However, there are several measures you can do to prevent it.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Since obesity is the main cause of Type 2 diabetes, an active weight loss effort can help an obese child avoid the disease. Promote active lifestyle in your family, which includes regular exercise or sports activities.
- Cultivate healthy eating habits. This is very important especially for those with a family history of diabetes. As parents, modelling this habit will go a long way as your child learns and takes cues from your actions. As much as possible, avoid processed food and opt for home-cooked and nutritious meals for the family.
- Limit sugar intake. To manage your blood sugar levels, cut back on sugary food, snacks, and beverages. This is especially true for kids who just can’t get rid of sweets such as chocolates, sodas, and candies.
Caring for a child with diabetes and the role of technology
For Jaime*, taking care of a child with diabetes requires personal motivation and continuous management.
“When battling a condition like diabetes, there will always be ups and downs,” Jaime shared. “There are times when Jane’s* glucose readings are high despite her adhering to the same diet. As parents, we are our child’s pillar of support. It is imperative that we remain strong, and encourage her every step of the way.”
Aside from making sure Jane maintains a healthy diet, Jaime also ensures proper monitoring of her child’s glucose levels, which usually takes the form of the traditional finger prick test. Jane had to do it five to seven times a day, sometimes even in the middle of classes.
“Whenever I saw Jane’s fingers, my heart ached—they were sprinkled with puncture wounds. I was determined to find a better way for Jane to check her glucose levels,” Jaime said.
Thankfully, Jaime found out about Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre System, which eliminates the need for routine finger pricking.
Here are some things to know about Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre System:
- It allows users to scan, reveal, and connect. The FreeStyle Libre digital ecosystem is built around tools that help users scan and view one’s glucose levels, reveal and share glucose data with healthcare professionals, and connect with loved ones and caregivers by sharing glucose data.
- No pain, only gain—information, that is. “All she has to do is stick the sensor at the back of her arm and she can start checking her glucose levels at any time. This process is fast and convenient,” Jaime said.
- It enables parents to monitor their child’s glucose levels from anywhere using their smartphones. With the app, children using the FreeStyle Libre system can directly scan and access glucose data with a smartphone, eliminating the need to carry a separate reader. Parents and caregivers can also remotely monitor their child’s glucose levels using a companion app, LibreLinkUp.
- It is available for free for Singaporeans. Singaporeans can download the FreeStyle LibreLink and LibreLinkUp apps for free on iPhone and android devices. Once a user scans the FreeStyle Libre sensor with his or her own LibreLink app, parents and caregivers will be able to see the result and receive notifications in LibreLinkUp, indicating high or low glucose levels.
According to Dr Tan, “Studies have shown that patients are checking their glucose levels more regularly when they use the FreeStyle Libre system, which results in a marked improvement in diabetes management… This can potentially help reduce the burden of diabetes on Singapore’s health system.”
*Not their real names