Christmas with Diabetes – Staying in controlElissa Renouf
This will be my nine year old son’s first Christmas since being diagnosed with Type 1. I’m dreading it. I don’t want to be a killjoy to keep him on track. How do you manage?
Christmas can be a traumatic time for a lot of people who have diabetes. Wherever you go, there is always so much festive food, with temptations like lollies and cakes right under your nose. Now that the four boys all use insulin pumps, this period is not as stressful as it used to be. Christmas for us is almost the same as it would be if no one had diabetes, except for BGL testing and programming the pumps.
Lollies and soft drinks are the preferred choice of food for children on Christmas Day and the days leading up to it. We try to keep a close eye on our kids to make sure they don’t overindulge, but we do allow them to have these ‘treat’ foods in moderation as long as they put the carbohydrate amount into their insulin pumps.
Like most kids, ours usually wake up very early in the morning and are hugely excited, which means that at least one of our boys will have a hypo and need a few jellybeans. Our day generally starts with an early breakfast because everyone is awake, followed by morning tea to make sure there are no more hypos. Then a huge Christmas lunch for our extended family – either a cold menu or a traditional hot meal. We also allow them ‘treat’ food in moderation and have to plan all the Christmas meals with gluten-free options for Billy and Freddie, who have coeliac disease as well as diabetes. For anyone who can still fit it in, dinner is usually leftovers form lunch. Unlike people on injections, who may need to eat to balance their insulin levels, using a pump means that Steve and the boys don’t have to eat unless they are hungry. Their levels will be fine if the basal rate (the slow trickle of insulin that prevents their BGLs rising) on their pump is correct.
I would say the only problem we have around food is when the boys forget to adjust their pumps and give themselves an insulin bolus (a short-acting burst of insulin) for some of the food or lollies they have eaten. Failing to do so right away can send their BGLs very high very quickly. When this happens we have to act fast to correct it and wait for their levels to come down. This is the point where I step in and stop them eating ‘treat’ food until they can show me their levels are back in the normal range. As the day is usually so full of excitement and running around, we do have to watch out of hypos. Our boys are very good at noticing the symptoms, so they get over them pretty quickly and they all have a fantastic day with their cousins.