Dealing with diabetes as a child can be a difficult and confusing time, especially when they're trying to fit in with the rest of their friends.
One person who knows this all too well is author Joe Fraser, who recently wrote a guide for children on how to live with insulin-dependent diabetes. Joe reflects on his own experience with the condition, and has put together a set of guidelines with the help of Dr Bill Lamb, a consultant pediatrician.
Joe Fraser has shared some of his top tips with us, which you can see below.
1. Take responsibility for your diabetes
As a diabetic, this is the first and biggest step to achieving good control. Other people won't always be around to look after you if things go wrong, and the sooner you take ownership of it the sooner control should improve.
2. Talk about it
The best way to take ownership of diabetes is to understand it, and one of the best ways of getting to know what's going on is to talk about it to other people. The more people you tell, the more diabetes just becomes part of everyday life and the less it becomes a hidden problem.
3. Always carry something sweet
Make sure you've always got something with a high Glycaemic Index (quickly absorbed) food or drink to hand just in case. Fizzy drinks are preferable, but the following are a bit more 'user-friendly': GlucoGel, Lucozade Sport 'Body Fuel' gel, dextrose or glucose tablets, sweets, and chocolate bars (Boosts and Crunchies are particularly good!).
4. Check the back of packets for carbohydrate levels
The balance between the amount of insulin injected and the amount of carbohydrate eaten is very delicate and can be changed by lots of factors including temperature, altitude and levels of activity. A great way to get to know this balancing act is by carbohydrate counting.
5. Keep records of your blood sugar levels and what you eat (at least to begin with)
Recording what your child eats, when they eat, how much they've injected, and whatever activity they've done or are going to do is tedious. However, it is the best way to learn about how to manage diabetes. You don't have to do it for ever but it means that you can start to notice patterns in your readings a lot more easily, and find solutions to when your blood sugar runs too high or low.
6. Vary your injection sites
The best places to inject are where there's the most fat, so usually on the stomach and legs (the backs of arms have fallen out of favour recently). Most people seem to find it easier on the stomach, but you shouldn't inject in one spot all the time as insulin will make fatty 'lumps' grow if its concentration becomes too high!
7. Do exercise
Exercise helps to lower the blood sugar level, which makes managing diabetes a little bit more complicated but can really improve the overall level of control. Doing exercise can help control this on two fronts (if you'll pardon the expression...), as not only does it burn off extra calories but also lowers the blood sugar level so you don't have to inject as much hunger-stimulating insulin.
8. Alternate Site Testing
This won't save a diabetic's life directly, but it should improve control and will make having diabetes a whole lot less painful! Old-style glucose meters can only measure blood taken from the ends of the fingers. Alternate Site Testing allows a diabetic to measure their glucose using blood taken from far less sensitive areas like the forearm, calf or pad of the thumb.
9. Always carry your equipment with you
Carrying all the equipment needed to stay in control can be a real hassle since there's just so much stuff. For just going out in the day you'll need the glucose meter, test-strips, lancer, insulin pen, spare lancets, needles, and a glucose supply to stay well-controlled. Try the Joe's All-In-One case to carry all your equipment with you.
10. When you travel take at least one and a half times more supplies than you think you require
Whenever I travel anywhere I always take between one and a half and twice as many supplies as I estimate I'll need. You never know what's going to happen, and you don't want to be stuck re-using old needles to inject the last vestiges of insulin whilst guessing blood sugar levels since the test-strips have run out. Also, take at least one spare insulin pen and divide up the supplies evenly between two bags, otherwise one lost or stolen piece of luggage could mean the end of your holiday.
You can find out more about Joe's book and more on his top tips on the website www.joes-diabetes.com