Andrea Markowitz, Ph.D.
November 12, 2009
Parents should probably be more concerned about not allowing their diabetic teens to play sports than allowing them to play. Physical activity is not only an essential component of controlling diabetes-it also improves your child's current and long-term health.
Be Sure Your Teen is Ready and Prepared Before giving your teen the go-ahead to play sports, schedule a doctor's visit for a physical to determine diet, insulin needs and exercise readiness. Your physician may advise your teen to start slowly and work up to more strenuous levels of exercise, especially if your child's overweight and out of shape. Make sure your teen follows your physician's recommendations to the letter.
Tell coaches and sports directors about your teen's diabetes and how to handle an emergency. Make sure your child brings a supply kit that includes a diabetic testing kit, written health plan, emergency contact information, insulin and healthy snacks to workouts and games.
Monitor Glucose Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can occur during or after exercise. Your doctor may advise testing glucose levels before and after a workout so your teen can eat and medicate as needed. If hypoglycemia symptoms occur, stop the activity, test your child's glucose level and correct the problem as directed by your physician. Make sure your teen knows to eat a snack to boost the glucose level, if needed.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia include shakiness, weakness, sweating, lightheadedness, anxiety, hunger, headache and mental confusion or problems concentrating.
If the body doesn't have enough insulin to use the glucose that's released during exercise, the glucose stays in the blood and results in hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). If your teen is hyperglycemic, physical activity should stop until the blood sugar level is back to its safe range.
Symptoms of hyperglycemia include exhaustion, increased urination and thirst, weight loss, vision changes, moodiness, numbness or tingling in hands or feet, muscle cramps and yeast infection.
Sports to Avoid Avoid sports that pose greater danger if low blood sugar levels go down during the activity, such as rock climbing, hang gliding or scuba diving. To be safe, check with your child's doctor before trying any new sport or physical activity.
For more information visit the Nemours Kids Health Web site.
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