How to Teach Your Diabetes Child to Understand the Significance of Self Blood Glucose Monitoring

As important as teaching children to give their own insulin is teaching them to understand the significance of self blood glucose monitoring and teaching them to use the monitor themselves.

Even though a finger prick is part of the test, it is much less complicated than giving an insulin injection, and children can be taught to do it themselves earlier than they are ready to give themselves injections. Most of them don’t mind the finger stick be­cause they don’t have to jab a needle into themselves; it’s spring loaded and automatic when a button is depressed. Moreover, a lot of kids think the monitor is “neat,” and they like to show it off to their friends, even brag about it a little.

When the diabetes is first diagnosed, you and your child will have to test blood glucose fairly often, but after a few weeks it generally doesn’t need to be done more than twice a day, which means that your child doesn’t have to take the monitor to school. You need to keep a written record: time of day and the result. Once a week or every ten days, you should test blood glucose four times a day to be certain that everything is on track and that insu­lin injections and food intake remains in balance. And if the child has been especially active during the day, test blood glucose at bedtime. If it is low, a bedtime snack is in order.

Teaching Child

When you teach blood glucose testing, do it one step at a time after your child has watched you for a while. Provide plenty of praise and encouragement, as you would when teaching any new skill, and when mistakes occur, don’t scold, simply repeat the instruction.

If the result turns out to be higher or lower than normal, try not to be judgmental or punitive: “You must have eaten some­thing you weren’t supposed to,” or “Have you been running around all afternoon when you were supposed to be studying for your history exam?” And don’t freak out with worry (or if you ab­solutely have to, don’t let your child know). It doesn’t do any good: it won’t change the read out on the blood glucose monitor, but it will create anger and resentment.

Rather, approach things from a problem solving point of view: “Let’s give you an extra little jolt of insulin so we can get this number back down where it belongs,” or “How about a half a chicken sandwich to tide you over till supper.” If blood glucose is significantly elevated or depressed for three days running, the re­sponse should not be, “There’s something really wrong with you. We’d better get you right to the doctor.” Try instead, “I’m sure it’s nothing serious, but let’s just call Dr. Jones and see what he says about these numbers.”

From the very beginning, always make sure that your child knows what the results of the blood glucose tests are—even a very young child, and even when you do all the testing. This accom­plishes two things: It teaches awareness of what is happening with the diabetes and creates early training in responsibility for one’s own care, and it fosters an open and honest attitude about the disease—and about your relationship with your child.

Most of the same things that affect adult blood glucose levels affect those of a child: illness, stress, more exercise than usual, in­appropriate eating habits. It’s up to you to find out what’s been going on in your child’s life when blood glucose is too high or too low for several tests in a row. When you find the cause, use it as a learning experience, not a punitive one.

Siblings should be a part of this enterprise as well. They are a part of the family, and childhood diabetes is most assuredly a family situation. They should know how to test their brother or sister’s blood glucose (and to give an insulin injection) because one day they may have to do it and because it is part of the re­sponsibility of helping to care for those we love.

Testing for Ketones

Ketone testing is done by dipping a test strip into urine, just as it is with adults. You should test for ketones when blood glu­cose is too high and / or at the first sign of illness and continue do­ing it until the child has recovered.

Boys can urinate into a disposable paper or plastic cup, and girls can be taught to hold a plastic cup against their vulva when they urinate. Eventually they will become adept at this. I know a little girl who can pee directly onto the strip. Most of the time she doesn’t even get her hand wet, and says, “But I always wash my hands with soap and water anyway. Mommy taught me that safe is better than sorry.”

If the test is positive for ketones, call the doctor immediately. Ketoacidosis is nothing to fool around with.

Filed Under: Health & Personal Care


About the Author: Andrew Reinert is a health care professional who loves to share different tips on health and personal care. He is a regular contributor to MegaHowTo and lives in Canada.

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