Summer Camps For Children With Type 1 Diabetes
Living with Type 1 Diabetes
We know from our own experience that maintaining a social life is a challenging yet vital phase for every child. A child’s participation in group life is absolutely essential for his or her learning and contributes to steady development, both psychologically and socially. Now, imagine the increased complexities that arise for a child who suffers from a chronic illness such as type 1 diabetes. Routine participation becomes a challenge when insulin injections and blood sugar maintenance must remain an hourly priority. Therefore, it’s imperative that communities ensure a child with type 1 diabetes also has access to a positive, interactive school experience and can participate in the same activities as his or her classmates.
These role models with type 1 diabetes are just a few great people helping to show others that they're not alone.
What is Type 1 Diabetes?
Source: Renegade Run
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body irreversibly destroys the beta cells of the pancreas, responsible for the production of insulin, resulting in an absence of this necessary hormone. Insulin is essential for the use of sugar (glucose) in the blood and is the main source of energy in the body. In the absence of insulin, the glucose level increases dramatically in the blood. This phenomenon is what creates high blood pressure and thus diabetes. Over time if this high blood pressure is not addressed it can cause problems in all parts of your body.
Type 1 diabetes, also known as juvenile diabetes, cannot be cured and instead requires treatment throughout a person’s life. Most cases of type 1 diabetes are diagnosed during the teenage years. Type 1 diabetes is generally alleviated through maintaining a normal blood sugar level through insulin monitoring. Not to be confused with type 2 diabetes, type 1 is something a child is born with and is not solely based around a person’s diet or fitness level.
Helping Kids With Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes reveals itself in numerous forms and has many different symptoms in children. In some children, diabetes can manifest itself through extreme hunger or thirst, while other children may experience an inability to control their bladder or shaking of their muscles. One of the most widespread treatments for children with diabetes is daily physical activity. This can include more leisurely activities like walking, or more intense activities like team sports.
Whatever your choice, doctors recommend that children with diabetes practice at least 30 minutes of brisk walking or its equivalent on a daily schedule. Professionals advise that kids participate in activities of lower intensity, such as slow walking, for longer periods to achieve the health benefits of them. In contrast, more intense activities such as jogging, football, or heavy gardening (raking, burrowing) require less time to be beneficial. Regular exercise, however, is better for overall health than intense or long-lasting efforts that are done less often. Most activities work well for children with diabetes, but you’ll need to take some precautions in order to avoid the risk of hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is when blood sugar levels get too low and cause fatigue. Keeping blood sugar levels balanced is the key to keeping a child with diabetes healthy.
Encouragement and Education
Other important concepts for parents and teachers to keep in mind when working with children with type 1 diabetes are encouragement and education. Kids can be diagnosed very early into childhood, so it is important to make sure that a child understands what diabetes is and how to deal with it. It is also crucial not to accidentally isolate a child from his or her friends as that can only make the situation worse. Children that are isolated can have trouble developing the necessary social skills that are needed to succeed later in life. Diabetes should never take over a child’s life, and it is important to make sure that kids can keep a safe blood sugar level without interfering with their normal activities.
If a child is a bit older he or she might also struggle implementing good practices to deal with their diabetes, as teens often want to live a carefree lifestyle that diabetes might not tolerate. Many cases of type 1 diabetes are discovered in teens, and sometimes these cases can be worse if the teens don’t get treatment right away. Puberty can also cause complications, as the natural changes in a kid’s body might make it harder for him or her to cope with their diabetes. As parents, it is important to support your children and work with them to keep their conditions under control and keep their lives as unaffected as possible.
One of the best ways to work with diabetes in children is to create a routine that helps a child live a normal life while at the same time understanding and treating their condition. Example routines include meal plans and regularly-scheduled exercise. Having routine in your life can help reduce stress, which is highly critical for children with type 1 diabetes as stress can lead to increased blood pressure.
What Happens if Type 1 Diabetes Goes Untreated?
If type 1 diabetes is not treated, it can have significant impacts on a child. Besides vastly increasing the chance of cardiovascular problems and coronary artery disease, type 1 diabetes can also cause nerve and kidney damage. Nerve damage can cause burning and tingling sensations that can hinder one's ability to carry out everyday tasks. Damage to the kidney can create the need for dialysis and, in some extreme cases, a kidney transplant. In some cases, diabetes can also cause damages in other parts of the body such as eyes, ears, feet, and skin. While most of this damage is a gradual process and affects a majority of people only later on in life, it is important to address type 1 diabetes before these symptoms get severe.
Diabetes in Numbers
Diabetes is becoming more common in both adults and children in the United States.
As of 2015, approximately 1.25 million children and adults had type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is increasing at roughly 2.3%.
Another 29 million people have type 2 diabetes.
Both of these types total to roughly 9.4% of the total population of the United States.
Over a million cases of diabetes are diagnosed each year, but there still remains millions of people who are undiagnosed.
Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the US with tens of thousands of people dying each year due to it.
It’s clearly important to stay aware of diabetes and make sure children get the proper treatment. This is especially important at times when children are in new or less structured environments. Summer is often one of those times. What can help?
Summer Camps for Kids with Type 1 Diabetes
Summer is a critical and useful time for children with type 1 diabetes. School is out of session, and there is plenty of time to focus on building good habits that mitigate their diabetes. However, parents don’t have to figure this out all on their own. Many summer camps and programs focus on educating and helping kids with type 1 diabetes, all while the kids have a fun, “normal” summer.
There are many summer camps all over Texas that support children with type 1 diabetes. One of the leading summer camps for children with type 1 diabetes is Camp Sweeney. Camp Sweeney is a three week camp that helps children develop habits to deal with type 1 diabetes so they can live a regimented life in the future. The camp’s intensity is tailored to best help kids manage their symptoms, and children will be staying on-site for the whole duration of the camp.
For more information you can check out the camp on Kwaddle.
Another great camp is the Texas Lions Camp. This camp is free and is a little closer to Austin than Camp Sweeney. Texas Lions Camp emphasises a can-do attitude and has a whole team of medical specialists that can address the specific needs of your child. This camp has a large array of activities such as boating, archery, arts & crafts, horses, radio, a climbing wall, and swimming.
A great resource for finding more programs just for children living with type 1 diabetes is the American Diabetes Association. This association has many resources, programs and camps all over Texas.
Community can be another great way to support children with diabetes. If you have a favorite summer camp, program, or school routine that helps you, we’d love to hear from you. Share your success and challenges with our community of parents on Facebook or Instagram.