Diabetes in Children

The scientific name for diabetes is diabetes mellitus. This refers to a several disorders that describe a person’s inability to create or use insulin effectively. As a result, people who are sick with diabetes often have high blood sugar, and this could result in physiological damage if left uncontrolled. Individuals with Type I and Type II diabetes both experience a range of symptoms included frequent urination, increased thirst, and increased hunger (Fahien and MacDonald, 2002). When symptoms are left ignored, more harmful symptoms could occur. These include diabetic ketoacidosis, which results in death. These individuals could also experience comas before death.

Ultimately, diabetes occurs because the pancreas is typically responsible for producing insulin. However, diabetic patients are either unable to produce insulin or insulin machinery in the cells are damaged, which means that the insulin produced is not usable by the body (Fahien and MacDonald, 2002). Diabetes could also occur when cells are unable to properly respond to the insulin that is made, either due to mutations in the cells or insulin itself.

There are three types of diabetes that impact the population today. Type 1 diabetes often develops during childhood and it typically due to a genetic mutation that prevents children from being able to make enough insulin (Hidekatsu, 2011). Although the exact cause is not known, the disease is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, and is due to the pancreas’ inability to make insulin to the extent needed by the body (Hidekatsu, 2011).

Type 2 diabetes typically occurs during adulthood, although some children with poor diets and who exercise very little have the potential to develop this illness (Hidekatsu, 2011). These individuals develop insulin resistance, in which their body cells fail to respond to insulin properly (Hidekatsu, 2011). This type of diabetes is also called non insulin-depedent diabetes mellitus (Hidekatsu, 2011). Individuals who are obese are more likely to suffer from the effects of this disease compared to members of the general population (Bobo, 2002).

A third type of diabetes is called gestational diabetes. Typically, this occurs in women who have no history of diabetes (Hidekatsu, 2011). However, while pregnant, the cell-signaling mechanisms that create insulin may go awry, which means that this individual will develop insulin resistance and high blood sugar levels (Hidekatsu, 2011). These individuals often do not know they are diabetic until they experience severe systems and go to the hospital or their primary care providers to determine what is happening to them.

For people with all three types of diabetes, it is necessary for them to maintain a healthy diet that is free of unmetabolizable sugars, they must exercise regularly, attempt to maintain a normal body weight, and avoid the use of tobacco (Hidekatsu, 2011). Furthermore, physicians recommend that these individuals focus on controlling their blood pressure and maintaining their foot care. Individuals with Type 1 diabetes manage their symptoms by using insulin injections, while individuals with Type 2 diabetes can treat their symptoms with or without insulin (Hidekatsu, 2011). However, it remains necessary for them to take medications to control the physiological aspect of the disease. Since medications and treatments can contribute to low blood sugar, it is important for these individuals to measure their blood sugar levels periodically.

Children who have diabetes and attend school have a unique challenge posed to them compared to other students. In particular, it is necessary for the school administration, teachers, and nurse to be aware of the child’s disease status so the adults in the school are able to provide care to the child when needed (Bobo and Schantz, 2007). Teachers need to be aware if they need to send the child to the nurse for regular care and screening, and it is beneficial for these individuals to be aware of the symptoms of diabetes so they are able to persuade the child to visit the nurse if he or she appears to be feeling sicker than normal. Many diabetic children carry blood glucose monitors with them so they are able to track their blood sugar levels, and this may appear to be abnormal, or raise questions among other children. It is therefore beneficial for school personnel to help the other students understand what diabetes is, and what they can do to make the child feel normal.

A particular concern in the school setting is managing diabetes through the consumption of food. When diabetic children notice that their blood sugar is low, they are supposed to eat a small snack to increase the value (Bobo and Schantz, 2007). If they don’t, these individuals may become dizzy and enter diabetic shock. It is also important to consider that, throughout this process, the diabetic student may not necessarily be able to focus on school work and academic tasks.

Some students may be afraid to eat in the classroom, or ask if they can, because they want to comply with classroom rules. Others may not have any food available and may not be certain what to do to resolve their situation. It is therefore important for educators to create their classroom as a safe space in which students feel comfortable bringing their health needs to the attention of the teacher.

The parents must also be involved in the care process, as it is sometimes necessary to send a child with diabetes home to receive care from a formal physician. School nurses monitor the child’s medicine intake and tracks their blood sugar levels, but they are not able to perform any emergency care protocols (Bobo and Schantz, 2007). As such, the parent should coordinate with the school to determine the best method to contact them during the day if there is a problem. In addition, the parent should designate individuals who can go to the school in place of the parent when needed during emergencies. In this manner, there will be no barriers to prevent the child with diabetes from being able to access care during the school day. Information regarding preferred hospitals should also be left to the school in case the parent is unable to arrive immediately during an emergency.

When parents are not aware of how to provide support to their diabetic children, it is also the responsibility of the school nurse and social services staff to work together to determine how the parents could help their diabetic children to access health and care resources (Bobo and Schantz, 2007). By offering workshops for parents who may be uneducated about the disease or not have the medical insurance needed to provide their children with care, the school is able to provide support to its diabetic students on a new level.

It is challenging for a child to have diabetes in the school setting due to the many activities that will appear to deviate from normality for the child. However, if the school creates a positive and accepting atmosphere for diabetic students, and provides the child with necessary treatment access and plans, then the student will be able to thrive in his or her school setting.


Bobo, N. (2002). Type 2 Diabetes in Children and Adolescents: Information from the

National Diabetes Education Program. NASN School Nurse, 17(4), pp.13-14.

Bobo, N. and Schantz, S. (2007). Resources for the Management of Diabetes in Children: National Association of School Nurses Partners with the National Diabetes Education Program. NASN School Nurse, 22(2), pp.19-20.

Fahien, L. and MacDonald, M. (2002). The Succinate Mechanism of Insulin Release. Diabetes, 51(9), pp.2669-2676.

Hidekatsu, Y. (2011). Types of Diabetes that the Dipeptidyl Peptidase-4 Inhibitor May Act Effectively and Safely. The Open Diabetes Journal, 4(1), pp.1-5.

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