Managing children's diabetes around holiday sweets and treats

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Children with Type 1 diabetes might be feeling a bit left out during the holidays. Schools and sometimes even relatives are nervous to include them when it comes to celebrating with sweet treats.

It's a common misunderstanding that many people think kids with diabetes can't have any sweets. They can - but in moderation and with a little extra planning.

Many things have changed since 6-year-old Tessa Long was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. She now wears an insulin pump on her leg.

She and her mom Tiffany carry cell phones with apps monitoring blood sugar levels around-the-clock and a special nurse manages Tessa's care at school.

But holidays remain close to the same.

"We try to make her not feel any different than other kids," said Tiffany.

Melissa Rearson of the Diabetes Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia says it's a misconception that kids with diabetes can't eat cookies and other holiday treats.

"As long as insulin is dosed correctly, any food can be eaten," she said.

So Tiffany offsets Christmas cookie-baking with a high-protein meal - one with more meat or cheese. And she keeps closer tabs on Tessa's blood sugar levels.

A device called an OmniPod enables her to give Tessa extra insulin - even while she sleeps.

Just like everyone else, moderation is still key when it comes to sugary snacks.

Rearson says for kids like Tessa there can be other holiday pitfalls. Inactivity during long car rides or air travel can raise blood sugar. But frolicking in the snow does the opposite.

"Walking up a sledding hill can cause blood sugars to plummet really quickly," she said.

Make sure kids are drinking plenty of water. When blood sugars run high, kids with diabetes become dehydrated more quickly.

Also, families should do what they can to avoid catching a cold or other infection.

"Sometimes blood sugars act a little differently when kids are sick - sometimes they have high blood sugars, sometimes they have low blood sugars," said Rearson.

Tiffany says organization and preparation help her in controlling Tessa's diabetes.

As long as she has extra juice, water, insulin and testing gear, Tessa is able to do everything her siblings and classmates do during the holidays.

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