School’s out – managing your child’s diabetes in the summer months

What effect can the summer break routine have on kids with diabetes?

Ah, summertime – a time when kids can turn off alarm clocks, enjoy hours of being outdoors, camp, travel and purely enjoy the feeling that only summer vacation brings!

Summer is a good time to think about the changes in your child’s routine. What effect can this new routine have on kids with diabetes?

Now that school is out, summer break allows for more varied meal times unlike school days when lunch is served at a specific hour. Summer brings more opportunities for longer hours outdoors, increased physically activity; for some kids that may mean several hours a day.

Here are a few considerations concerning your child’s routine to think about as school days turn into summer vacation,

  • Sleep patterns vary
  • Snacks and meal patterns vary
  • Physical activity varies
  • Travel patterns vary
  • Stress may vary

Next, think about how each of these adjustments in routine may affect your child’s diabetes.

  • Sleep and rest – Experts suggest keeping your child’s sleep routine the same for summer and school months. We know that blood glucose levels are affected by sleep patterns. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, guidelines for sleep are:
    • Preschool-aged children: 11–12 hours a day
    • School-aged children: At least 10 hours a day
    • Teens: 9–10 hours a day     
  • Food consumption – Are you seeing a new trend in your child’s eating patterns? Perhaps you are going through more food and buying more groceries! Summer brings the opportunity for many of our summer favorites, such as hot dogs, s’mores and ice cream. Eliminating these snacks is next to impossible, so being prepared ahead of time to regulate your child’s appropriate food portions (both carb intake and food portions) will help to meet dietary guidelines. Visit Myplate.gov for helpful hints on food choices and meal planning.
  • Long hours of physical activity – For most kid’s the summer months bring the opportunity to add more physical activity, such as biking, sports, swimming and skateboarding. Be aware that these extra activities bring the need for the right additions of “food fuel” in the form of healthy snacks and meals. Also remember to stay hydrated, water and other natural hydrating drinks can help keep blood glucose levels steady.
  • On the road again – Whether there are long distance travel plans involved or if you are staying close to home, remember to keep a kit in your car which includes child’s medications and a list of medications they take. You can readily pass off the kit to someone else who your child travels with.
  • Good stress and bad stress – It goes without saying that in both good times and bad times, we may feel stressed. For your child, stress levels can come from the anticipation of starting a new sports team and meeting new friends, to having a new summer living situation and being away from friends or family. Stress levels may affect blood glucose levels. Help prepare your child by talking about these new situations that summer vacation brings.

School’s is out! Enjoy your summer, stay healthy and remember that even the slightest schedule changes can affect your child’s diabetes and overall health. Remember to always follow your health care provider’s instructions.

For more tips on health and nutrition visit Michigan State University Extension at http://msue.anr.msu.edu/topic/info/chronic_disease.

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