MONDAY, Dec. 23, 2013 (HealthDay News) -- The holidays are a potentially dangerous time for children with diabetes, an expert warns, and parents need to take steps to keep them safe.
"It's extremely important for parents to communicate with their child during the holidays to ensure the festivities are safe, but also fun," Dr. Himala Kashmiri, a pediatric endocrinologist at Loyola University Health System and assistant professor of pediatrics at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, said in a Loyola news release.
"Diabetes doesn't mean your child can't enjoy the foods of the season. It just means you have to be prepared and communicate with your child about how to control blood sugar," he added.
People with diabetes have elevated blood sugar levels because their body doesn't make the hormone insulin or doesn't use it properly.
Parents should check their diabetic child's blood sugar more often during the holidays. If the numbers seem high, parents should look for ketones in the urine, Kashmiri advised. That's a sign insulin is needed.
"How often a parent checks their child's blood sugar can vary, but during the holidays it's especially important to check before every meal and in certain situations before snacks," he said. "Checking four to six times per day during the holidays is a good idea, keeping in mind that the frequency might even be higher depending on your child's blood sugar readings."
Kashmiri noted that too many restrictions may lead children to sneak food, which can be dangerous.
"There is a misconception that a child with diabetes has to avoid sweets. That's not true," he said. "Children with diabetes just need insulin to help them process the food."
It's important that your children know they need to tell you if they are eating certain foods so you can give them an appropriate amount of insulin, Kashmiri said.
"If you keep the communication lines open and help the child know you are on the same team, a child will be less likely to sneak snacks, which can cause extreme elevations in blood sugars," he added. "You'll want to closely monitor blood sugar, but also make sure they can have fun."
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about diabetes in children and teens.