For students with diabetes and their parents, back to school is about a lot more than purchasing school supplies and finding the perfect lunchbox. It's about making a plan that ensures that a child with diabetes is safe at school.
Diabetes affects nearly 208,000 young people under the age of 20 in the United States and is one of the most common chronic diseases in children. This is a health condition that must be managed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including time spent at school and during school-related activities.
Coordination and collaboration among members of the school health team, the student's parents/guardians, and doctor are essential for helping students manage their diabetes. School personnel ranging from the bus driver to the school nurse to the teachers and food service staff can play an important role. The National Diabetes Education Program, a program of the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently updated its resource, "Helping the Student with Diabetes Succeed: A Guide for School Personnel." It provides the guidance needed to develop a plan for the daily care of children with diabetes in the school setting.
The school guide contains three important tools for helping schools implement effective diabetes management--a sample diabetes medical management plan, a sample template for an individualized health care plan, and sample emergency care plans. These tools can help school personnel identify and assist with diabetes management for students. Providing school nurses, teachers, administrators and other school personnel with a detailed diabetes management plan and proper training to execute the plan prepares them to sufficiently support students with diabetes. For example, school nurses and other school personnel who have received training in diabetes care can be prepared to assist the student in completing diabetes-related tasks, such as insulin administration and blood glucose monitoring.
Diabetes requires a careful balance of food, exercise, and medication to minimize the risk of additional diabetes-related health problems. On a daily basis, keeping blood glucose from going too high or too low - conditions known as hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia - can be a challenge. School personnel should learn the warning signs of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia in students with diabetes. A child with diabetes experiencing either of these conditions requires access to medical supplies and snacks or beverages to address their blood sugar levels. Teachers and bus drivers may need to make allowances for access to food and beverages in the classroom and on the bus.
Establishing emergency care plans helps children with diabetes, school nurses, and school personnel work together to successfully manage high or low blood glucose in the school setting. Communicating in advance with your child's teachers and other school staff can help make the school year a healthy one.