Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in school-aged children. It is a disease in which the body either does not make or does not properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone needed to convert sugar and starches into energy for the body. Because the body isn’t producing or properly using insulin, glucose (sugar) builds up in the blood and spills into the urine; as a result the body loses its main source of fuel.

There are many types of diabetes that affect children. The most common types seen in school settings include:

  • Type 1 (formerly called “Insulin-Dependent” or “Juvenile-Onset”) Diabetes Mellitus
  • Type 2 (formerly called “Non-Insulin Dependent” or “Adult-Onset”) Diabetes Mellitus
  • Pre-Diabetes
  • Gestational Diabetes (May affect teens who are pregnant)

How is it managed in school?

Controlling blood glucose levels within a target range is the goal of effective diabetes management. This requires carefully balancing food, exercise, and insulin or medication. As a general rule, food makes blood glucose levels go up, and exercise and insulin make blood glucose levels go down. Growth and puberty, mental stress, illness, or injury also can affect blood glucose levels.

Children with diabetes test their blood glucose levels many times throughout the day. If levels are too low (hypoglycemia) or too high (hyperglycemia), they will need to take corrective action such as eating, changing their activity level, or taking insulin. A child’s ability to learn will be affected by blood sugars that are too high or low. In addition, blood sugars that are too high or low can a present life-threatening situation. The school nurse works closely with these students to manage their diabetes.

What is the teacher's role? 

Keeping children with diabetes safe in school requires close collaboration between the teacher, the school nurse, the student and his/her family. These students will have an individual health care plan (IHCP), a Diabetes Emergency Action Plan (DEAP), and a 504 plan, which will include accommodations for MCAS testing.

Teachers must be able to recognize the warning signs of high or low blood sugar and be familiar with the student’s plans and accommodations. The school nurse will guide teachers in the management of each diabetic student.

Excerpted from: Massachusetts Guide to Managing Diabetes in Schools, October 2011.

For more information, see the links below:

Diabetes Actions for the:
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