How High Blood Sugars Affect Behaviour in Type 1 Children.

High Blood Sugars

There’s absolutely no doubt about it that high blood sugars and dramatic fluctuations affect our the behaviour of our Type 1 children. Ever since diagnosis I have been able to tell through my daughters behaviour when her blood levels are too high. There seems to be an uncontrollable personality shift and sometimes I wonder where my daughter has gone. This is something I have thought about a lot and it breaks my heart to think this disease can have control over her in this way and so many times I have witnessed when she falls back into range my daughter returns. I wanted to look at how our kids are actually feeling in these moments, the behaviours they can portray and look at any ways we can help them.

Parenting Challenges

It is one of my biggest challenges as a parent to deal with high blood episodes the best I can to understand I need to really connect with how my child really feels as there are lots of them so I can hopefully learn how I can best respond to her. The challenge I see is that the behaviours portrayed at other times would be deemed inappropriate and often unacceptable but when hand in hand with high blood sugars they are out of control, we can’t reason with them or make them snap out of it, so how do we react to these inexcusable behaviours especially when it involves hurting or being unreasonable to siblings, friends or indeed any one they are in contact with until the blood are back in range and the behaviour subsides.

Reasons for High Blood Sugars

There are many reasons blood sugars rise too high when dealing with Type 1 diabetes. There is little that can be done to avoid them but its important to act quickly and deal with them as they come along. That said it takes a lot longer to treat a hyper than a hypo as when the correction has been given it can take hours and hours to return to normal range again. Reasons for hyper’s include:

  • too many carbs eaten with not enough insulin.
  • forgetting to bolus.
  • changes needed in basal insulin or ratios being incorrect.
  • stress.
  • illness such as a cold or infection.
  • anxiety or excitement.
  • change in the weather, outdoor temperature.
  • cannula fail.
  • bumpy injection sites causing poor insulin absorption.
  • overtreating hypo’s or rebound highs.

Physical Symptoms of High Blood Sugar

Before looking at behavioural changes, there are many physical symptoms that are seen upon diagnosis but can often occur when blood levels are increased for periods of time that leave our children feeling drained and worn out.

  • Blood glucose readings of above 14.0mmol.
  • Polydipsea – thirst, frequent need to drink.
  • Polyurea – frequent need to urinate.
  • Feeling weak and tired.
  • Long term weight loss.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Polyphagia – extreme hunger.
  • Headaches or stomach aches.

We all know ourselves how much having one particular ailment of feeling unwell can have a knock on effect on how we feel for the rest of the day.

To look further into the symptoms of Type 1 click through to my detailed blog post.

Child Quotes of what Hyper Feels Like!

Here are some real life quotes and statements first hand from children experiencing high blood sugars, although they are often unable to distinguish between highs and lows but can sense they don’t feel right.

  • I feel angry inside.
  • I feel cross with everybody.
  • It’s hard to control how I feel.
  • It feels like it does when I’m low, but hard to tell the difference.
  • I feel unwell.
  • My tummy hurts.
  • I want it to go away.
  • It makes me not a very nice person.
  • I feel agitated.
  • I want it to go away.
  • It feels awful.
  • I feel upset.
  • I just want to cry but I end up hurting people sometimes.

Parent Quotes of what Hyper Behaves Like!

  • irrational in their responses.
  • irritable and snappy.
  • short tempered.
  • inability to connect with people.
  • bouncing off the walls.
  • rude.
  • difficulty concentrating.
  • difficulty focusing on every day activities like reading.
  • aggressive and angry.
  • very emotional.
  • hyper
  • immature
  • silly
  • sometimes throw things around
  • inability to listen to instructions.
  • answers back

What adults with Type 1 say Hyper Feels Like!

I also wanted to get an idea of how an adult living with Type 1 would describe it and I found a beautifully descriptive article that is well worth a read and give a much deeper perspective, you can read here from The Diabetic Journey.

The bits that really stood out for me if you don’t get chance to read it all are: “Uncomfortable and restless, torturous to have to go through it. Feeling like syrup is running through your veins, unable to think, move and function properly. Head pounding, irritable and utterly exhausted. As the insulin finally kicks in, your mood starts to shift and the brain fog slowly goes away but the exhaustion lingers for the rest of the day”. The Diabetic Journey

How can we Respond Effectively to our Children in the Hypers?

I’m afraid I don’t have all the answers for this bit as its as much a learning curve for us as it is for you and obviously different ages of children will require different support. Here are a few thoughts to help you on the way from a mum of a seven-year-old type 1:

  • Stay calm.
  • First port of call is obviously to give them he correction or cannula change that they need which can be a challenge in itself.
  • Then its very much a waiting game, we find its a good 2 hours before the correction starts to work and it can be hours later before it has fully worked and sometimes levels are stubborn and take several corrections 4 hours apart!
  • Try not to react or be alarmed by their behaviour.
  • Try not to get cross or engage with the behaviours.
  • Don’t try and lecture them about the behaviours they are exhibiting because in those moments they SIMPLY CAN’T HEAR YOU.
  • Say very little but let them know its all going to be OK and its quite normal to feel like that when levels are high.
  • I find it helps to empathise by saying something like: “your bloods are so high at the moment, that must be making you feel really horrible?” Give them chance to respond and acknowledge what you’ve said. You could then say: “its really hard to make good choices or do the right thing when you are feeling like that isn’t it?”. Then give a solutions such as “how about you come and sit on my knee or come and have a cuddle for a while until it passes?” or “shall we go and have some quiet time away from everybody else?” or they might feel like burning off some physical energy in the garden.
  • Perhaps try to guide them away from busy situations where they can hurt or upset people is helpful and give apologies on their behalf.
  • Refrain from giving punishments or consequences for unacceptable behaviour because it is generally out of their control in this moment.

Summary

Wow all this research has left me feeling quite sad, certainly more understanding but really just blown away by what our Type 1 little people have to deal with often on a daily basis and for the rest of us who stand by them trying to help and support them in the midst of the ups and downs. Type 1 really has the power to control them. I really hope it’s given you some food for thought and a deeper understanding of how Type 1 affects behaviour especially if you are friends or more distant family members and not dealing with it first hand all the time.

I’d love to hear from you so do leave your comments below if you’d like to continue the conversation!

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