3 ways to protect kids against diabetes

Published June 9, 2021, 4:46 PM

by Jessica Pag-iwayan

Because adults are not the only ones who can have this disease

CHILDREN ARE VULNERABLE TOO Diabetes cases might be rampant among adults, but children are also susceptible to this disease (Unsplash)

COVID-19 pandemic might not be attacking children as much, but there are other illnesses that do not spare them from getting sick. One of these is diabetes. Based on the data from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), there are more than one million children and adolescent across the globe that are living with type 1 diabetes. 

To shed light about this and how parents can protect their children against this disease, Manila Bulletin Lifestyle talks to Dr. Ellen Du, immediate past president of the Philippine Society for Pediatric Metabolism and Endocrinology (PSPME) during the Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System launch. 

Cause and effect
According to Dr. Du, locally, there is no statistics that determine how many Filipino children are suffering from diabetes. “Based on the registry of the Philippine Pediatric Society, there were around 3,000 cases of type 1 diabetes among the four million admissions from 2006 to May 31, 2021,” she says. “This is  an underestimate because the data is only from pediatric training hospitals and this doesn’t also include those patients who were diagnosed in the clinics as outpatient.”

Dr. Ellen Du

What’s more alarming aside from this figure is, the root cause of the illness is still unknown. “For Type 1 insulin dependent diabetes mellitus, implicated triggers for the development of genetically predisposed individuals include viral infection of the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract,” Dr. Du says. “On the other hand, risk factors for type 2  (non-insulin dependent) diabetes are the following: family history, ethnicity (higher among Asians), living environment, and obesity.” 

If not diagnosed or treated, diabetes can have a huge impact to the children’s daily lives. “Both for type 1 and type 2 diabetes, children may have fatigue, weight loss, and mood changes.  But particularly in type 1 diabetes, acute complications like diabetic ketoacidosis can be devastating,” she says. “Long term effects of poorly controlled diabetes results to poor growth, delayed puberty in pre-pubertal children, irregular menses for adolescent girls and also permanent damage to the organs causing heart disease, cataracts, retinopathy and blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage, and loss of bone density.” 

Three things parents can do
With all these being said, Dr. Du then shares three things parents can do to help their kids to fight this, especially for those children who already have diabetes. 

BEST MILK To prevent and manage diabetes among children, mothers are highly encouraged to practice breastfeeding (Unsplash)
  1. Encourage healthy habits.
    For children with type 2 diabetes, having an active lifestyle is highly recommended. “You can encourage your children to go active inside their homes. It can begin from doing minimal household chores, walking around your village or subdivision, and playing with them,” she says.  “Limit their sugar intake as much as possible and promote healthy snacks such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grain. Don’t forget to limit their TV and computer screen time as well.” 
    For those who have type 1, she encourages mothers to do breastfeeding, get their children vaccinated, and establish healthy habits. 

2. Eat healthy.
The good doctor then reminds parents the importance of a healthy and balance meal. “Kids should avoid sugar-sweetened beverages, and food with trans fat,” Dr. Du continues. “Snacks with processed or refined sugars and high simple carbohydrates should also be avoided as they spike-up blood sugar levels, and can make blood glucose management more difficult. Use of artificial sugars are also not encouraged. Commercial diet programs should not be adapted unless discussed with the doctor.”  And lastly,

3. Get doctor’s advice and monitor glucose level
“It is crucial to first know what kind of diabetes the child has—is it type 1 or type 2? This will play a big role in the specifics of your diabetes management program for your child,” she says. “Overall, parents need to listen to the advice of their pediatric endocrinologist and the diabetes care team such as injecting insulin as prescribed for kids with type1 diabetes and taking oral drugs for type 2 DM, monitoring of glucose levels, and  proper diet and exercises.” 

She then recommends using Abbott FreeStyle Libre’s CGM technology not just for monitoring but to also to save children from the hassle and pain of regular finger pricks.