Type 1 diabetes children and sleepovers

Some things to consider when your type 1 diabetic child is ready to start sleeping away from home.

As children gain more independence and have a stronger need to be away from home to spend time with friends, sleepovers become a customary part of children’s experiences.  Sleepovers can cause concern among parents with the worry of not monitoring every moment of their child’s day and night. It takes parental adjustment to allow children to begin to have this freedom.

A parent’s job is to have their child eventually leave the nest making healthy life choices for themselves and the people they come into contact with.  Sleepovers offer time away from the watchful eyes of parents to begin to practice decision-making skills important to the development of individuality.   Many parents have personal guidelines they follow to allow a sleepover at another family’s home.

The typical personal guidelines or rules families have regarding a sleepover are more complicated when the child considering a sleepover is type 1 diabetic (T1D).  It is possible for T1D children to have the same experiences children without the illness experience.  There are considerations to be in place when a sleepover is in the works between T1D children and their friends.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) is a reliable resource for T1D families for the concerns of working through a chronic disease such as diabetes.  Starting with the host family being aware of the issues associated with diabetes is a good place to start.  A conversation and training session may be of great importance so all feel at ease.  It is best to keep routines consistent when away from home and blood sugars can change (hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia) with the excitement and activity of being with friends overnight.  There are signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia for an adult in charge of a sleepover with a T1D child in the mix to be aware.  A discussion of these signs and symptoms should happen prior to the party. It will be easier to recognize changes and the need for a blood glucose reading.  Along with a discussion, a print out of these signs and symptoms can be given to the host family for their review and to carry with them.

The ADA gives guidance about the demonstration training of the adult in charge prior to the sleep over:
  • Checking blood glucose levels
  • Counting carbs or stick with the food plan
  • Checking and giving insulin
  • Treating highs and lows
  • Responding to an emergency- especially when it requires glucagon
  • Helping the adult in charge to know what your child can eat and how that relates to his diabetes care.  If possible, create a menu with your child so that you all can agree on meals, snacks and insulin doses ahead of time.
  • You may want to request a text or phone call for an update during the evening to know how things are going with the diabetes management.

As the day of the sleepover gets closer, and it is time to pack your child’s diabetic supply bag the ADA has some advice of things to remember.  First, pack twice the amount of diabetes supplies you think your child will need.

The packing list should include:
  • Insulin
  • Syringes
  • Blood glucose testing supplies
  • Pump and/or continuous glucose monitor (CGM) supplies
  • Ketone testing strips
  • Glucagon
  • Glucose tablets or fast-acting sugar to treat low blood glucose
  • A medical ID card (your child should always wear a medical ID bracelet)
  • Day and night phone numbers for your D-team
  • All your contact numbers
  • Batteries
  • Snacks like peanut butter and crackers
  • First aid kit
  • Anti-diarrhea pills
  • Anti-nausea drugs

There are many concerns when parenting a child with diabetes, but it is important to have diabetic children have the experiences letting them try to have diabetes be at the forefront of their thoughts. It is hard enough to deal with having a chronic disease when you are the adult, but when children are trying to fit in and make friends, diabetes can be even tougher. Michigan State University Extension has many programs to help people diagnosed chronic disease and the prevention of disease. Find a program fitting your health needs at the website or Facebook page.

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