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Whether you are a teenager or a retiree, adequate management of diabetes is an ongoing challenge requiring effective daily adaptations. Regardless of age, immediate responses to a diagnosis can be frustration; frustration for the necessary changes in lifestyle, fear of lancing or pricking, or anxiety to tell friends or family. So how can you tackle the challenges associated with managing diabetes at school, work, and sport?
Children at school
In Australia, there are around 11,000 school-aged children living with diabetes. Whilst adolescents and teenagers are able to fulfil their support requirements, primary-school aged children with diabetes are more reliant on teachers and nurses to aid in stabilising their condition. Appropriate plans are necessary as a child’s ability to learn is immediately compromised when unstable blood glucose levels are ongoing.
Teenagers playing sport
It is well-known that exercise should be an important part of the daily routine for everyone, regardless of whether you are living with diabetes or not. Yet, for teenagers in particular, appropriate diabetes management strategies when playing sport is important. During exercise, the muscles release extra glucose for energy yet if there is not enough insulin released to absorb this glucose, this can result in high blood sugar levels and hyperglycemia. Contrastingly, keeping active can cause a dip in blood glucose levels or hypoglycemia. Teenagers going through puberty in particular are more sensitive to insulin levels, with insulin response up to 30% lower than children and so effective control is imperative. Whilst exercising it can be challenging to keep insulin at an appropriate temperature.
1. Keep the snacks handy - Teenagers who have been living with diabetes for a while most likely understand when their blood sugar levels are unstable. Symptoms such as weakness, having a headache and hunger may be present. It is advised that if exercising for longer than an hour, keeping some snacks on hand, like an energy bar or fruit, can help avoid adverse blood glucose levels.
2. Wear an active medical identification bracelet - No matter how long you have had diabetes for, unforeseen ill-health is a continuous potential lingering threat. Dr Grossman from Joslin Diabetes Centre asserts that Medical ID bracelets are able to speak for you when you are unable to. Given the risks associated with playing sport for people living with diabetes, wearing appropriate jewellery alerting others to your condition is necessary. The sooner the issue is identified, the sooner solutions can be implemented. In Australia, there are numerous vendors in which medical ID jewellery can be purchased from and it may be subsidised in part by Medicare or your private health insurance.
In teenagers in particular, the risk of hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia is elevated when exercising and dependent on the type and duration of the activity. However, exercise physiologist Dr Colberg strongly advises that “a chronic disease can have a negative influence on how teenagers view themselves, but being physically active may help counteract that by increasing self-confidence”.
Adults at workLike with any pre-existing medical condition, inadequate management of health can result in long absences from work or adverse productivity. Consequently, there is an unfavourable reputation in which employers don't understand diabetes and employees are discriminated against. Subsequently, it is important that employers are aware of your diabetes and understand your management plan. For example, so that appropriate shifts can be planned around the timing of administering medication.