Explaining diabetes to children

Pedeiatrician Jamie Wood, MD Clinical Diabestes, shares advice for parents on the best way to explain diabetes to your child after his or her diagnosis
How To Explain Diabetes To Children
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Explaining diabetes to children

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Diabetes is difficult to explain to a child. The way I approach it is to explain how they’ve been feeling prior to the diagnosis. So for example, a child has been peeing constantly, thirsty beyond belief, wetting the bed, feeling tired and drained and irritable and so I explain it by explaining how they’ve been feeling. So I say, “When you eat carbohydrates, or sugar, your body makes a hormone called insulin. And when you have diabetes, your body cannot make that insulin anymore. And when it can’t make insulin, the sugar in your blood goes higher and higher. And in a way it’s trapped inside your blood. And the only way for it to go out is to go out when you go to the bathroom. So that’s why you’re peeing a lot. And when you pee a lot that makes you really thirsty. And then when you don’t have insulin and you can’t use the energy from the carbohydrates you eat, then you lose weight, because you’re not absorbing those calories. And then you feel tired, because you have no energy.” And that tends to explain how they’ve been feeling with the next step being, “And now, I know how to make you feel better. And if I can give you insulin back and you can take insulin during the day, then those symptoms are going to go away and you’re going to feel back to normal.”

Pedeiatrician Jamie Wood, MD Clinical Diabestes, shares advice for parents on the best way to explain diabetes to your child after his or her diagnosis

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Jamie R. Wood, MD

Pediatrician, Clinical Diabetes, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Dr. Jamie Wood was born and raised in Vermont, where she also attended medical school. She completed her pediatric residency at Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, and her endocrine fellowship at Children’s Hospital Boston and the Joslin Diabetes Center of Harvard University. She moved to the Los Angeles area in 2008 and is now the Director of Clinical Diabetes Programs at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Dr. Wood’s specialty is the care of youth with type 1 and type 2 diabetes—a field she fell in love with during a medical student rotation at a summer camp for youth with diabetes.  She also enjoys gardening, cooking, hiking, and playing with her husband and two children, Jackson and Olivia.

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