How new digital health tools are changing the way children are living with type 1 diabetes

Diabetes Awareness Month places a spotlight on the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin—and the ways diabetes management has continued to advance.

By Abbott
How new digital health tools are changing the way children are living with type 1 diabetes
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It’s not unusual for parents of children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes to wake their kids a few times a night to poke their fingers to check the child’s glucose levels. “Sugar levels go up and down when you have diabetes, and when a child is sleeping and they go low… well, that’s a real worry,” explains Diane Rhodes, a certified diabetes educator in Moose Jaw, Sask.

Thankfully, with advancements in diabetes care, there are digital health tools available today that can simplify and improve the management of type 1 diabetes—both for kids and their parents.

About 33,000 school-aged children in Canada have type 1 diabetes, according to the Canadian Paediatric Society. “Type 1 diabetes can be diagnosed at any age, but the most common age for a person to receive a type 1 diabetes diagnosis is between 10 and 14 years. However, it can be much younger, and we’ve had people coming to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) for support when their child is not even two,” says Dr. Sarah Linklater, chief scientific officer at JDRF.

How new digital health tools are changing the way children are living with type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas doesn’t make insulin or makes very little. Signs and symptoms of the condition can develop over days or weeks, and the most frequent symptoms are increased thirst and frequency of urination. Children might also have an increased appetite alongside unexplained weight loss and reduced energy.

Since the discovery of insulin, there have been significant developments in diabetes management. Most recently, the new era of diabetes technology has introduced wearable technology like insulin pumps and flash glucose monitoring devices like Abbott’s FreeStyle Libre 2±, which eliminates the need for almost all finger pricks¥ and makes regularly checking glucose levels easier than ever^.

“By far, the most important advancement in diabetes management in the past 100 years is sensor-based glucose monitoring,” says Dr. Karen McAssey, a Hamilton-based paediatric endocrinologist. “These digital health tools give parents real-time information about their child’s glucose levels and where levels are heading, day or night,” says McAssey. “This is accurate, actionable information that leads to better treatment and management decisions about insulin, nutrition and activity.”

How new digital health tools are changing the way children are living with type 1 diabetes

The goal is to keep glucose levels in target range as consistently as possible and “when you are wearing a flash glucose monitoring device,” says Rhodes, “you tend to spend more time in the safe range. There’s no doubt that the more children and adults who use these devices, the less we’ll see long-term complications from diabetes.”

People sometimes think that a type 1 diabetes diagnosis means a poorer quality of life, but that just isn’t the case—especially with how far science has come. Here are three myths, and the truth for those living with diabetes:

  • Children with type 1 diabetes have limited life choices. Absolutely not, say the experts. Children can do everything they dreamed of doing before the diagnosis. Speak to your diabetes healthcare team and contact organizations like JDRF for support.
  • Kids with diabetes can’t eat sugar. Children with type 1 diabetes need a balanced diet that meets their nutritional requirements, and there are no restrictions—that includes sugar. The key is to effectively monitor glucose levels and match insulin to the number of grams of carbohydrates in a meal.
  • Insulin therapy “fixes” everything. Sensor-based glucose monitoring and insulin delivery systems are tools that lessen the burden of management, but there is no cure. Experts support accessibility to diabetes management devices for all as well as continued research toward finding a cure.

Be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist if the FreeStyle Libre 2 flash glucose monitoring system is a suitable option for the person living with diabetes in your family.

±The FreeStyle Libre 2 flash glucose monitoring system is indicated for measuring interstitial fluid glucose levels in people aged 4 years and older with diabetes mellitus. Always read and follow the label/insert. ØThe FreeStyle Libre 2 app is only compatible with certain mobile devices and operating systems. Please check the website for more information about device compatibility before using the app. *The LibreLinkUp app is only compatible with certain mobile devices and operating systems. Please check for more information. ¥Finger pricks are required if readings do not match symptoms or expectations. ^Data on file, Abbott Diabetes Care, Inc.
© 2021 Abbott. FreeStyle, Libre, and related brand marks are marks of Abbott. Product images are for illustrative purposes only. This article was paid for by Abbott, a manufacturer of diabetes care products in Canada. ADC-43245

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