Sports day can be very exciting for children, and while kids with type 1 diabetes will have more to consider, there is no reason that they cannot compete.

Exercise is extremely beneficial for children with diabetes. Not only will it improve their sensitivity to insulin, but physical activity provides an opportunity for social interaction and fun.

Primary and secondary school

Sports days at primary school are likely to be different to those at secondary school.

Events such as the egg & spoon race, sack race and three legged race feature at primary school sports day, which may involve a number of events back-to-back.

However, at secondary school, long running races and team sports could require more management. While your child may only be involved in one short event, such as a 100m or 200m sprint, this could still influence their blood glucose levels.

Meeting with the school

Before a sports day, you should make sure your child’s teachers and/or head teacher are informed of a plan to manage their diabetes on the day.

Among the considerations to be made include:

  • If your child can recognise hypos and know how to treat them – if they don’t, the free Hypo rogram can teach them, and their teachers, to recognise symptoms.
  • If your child can check their blood glucose levels – if your child is not old enough to do this, a teacher will need to help them with this, offering a place with privacy if your child requests this
  • Making sure they have ample supplies and know where they are kept – including glucose (such as Lucozade) for a hypo, insulin kept in a cool place – in case they are high – and water nearby, as your child may feel more thirsty.

Blood glucose levels

Physical activity can lead to reductions in blood glucose levels, as muscle movement results in greater sugar uptake from muscle cells.

However, short periods of strenuous exercise, such as sprints, can lead to stress hormones such as adrenaline being released. This can result in higher blood glucose levels for most people with type 1 diabetes.

Regarding your child’s blood glucose management, you should ensure that tests are done on your child before exercise, at regular interviews in-between events they are competing i, and upon exercise finishing.

Insulin management

You may consider taking precautions regarding your child’s insulin on a sports day. You should consult with your child’s diabetes healthcare team if you are thinking of altering your child’s insulin doses for a sports day.

This may, however, be dependent on how long your child will be exercising for. If they are competing in longer distance sports, or a greater a number of events, you may consider reducing their long acting insulin the night before. If your child uses an insulin pump, you could consider lowering their basal rate.

Conversely, a reduction may not be necessary if they are competing in a reduced duration of exercise, or a number of events that don’t involve much strenuous physical activity.

Changes to event schedules

If your child uses an insulin pump and switches off their basal insulin before an event, which is then delayed, their blood glucose levels could go too high during this time.

On the other hand, if your child has bolus insulin in their system and an event is brought forward, there could be an increased risk your child will have a hypo.

For this reason, changing event times could present difficulties in diabetes management. Making sure the organising teachers know about your child’s insulin requirements in advance is essential in case an event time is altered.

Hot weather

There are a few aspects to consider regarding diabetes and hot weather This is especially the case as most sports days are contested at the end of the school year, when the weather is likely to be much warmer.

You may consider reducing your child’s insulin levels if the weather is scheduled to be very warm, as this could lead to unpredictably low or high blood sugar levels.

If your child has been experiencing unusually high or low readings in hot weather, you should consult a member of their healthcare team prior to their sports day.

Additionally, your child should increase their intake of fluids during hot weather as dehydration can occur, with higher blood glucose levels exacerbating this risk.

Kids rule!

New words to remember:
weather, insulin, blood glucose, having fun

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