There’s a lot of diabetes information out there — but not all of it is based on fact. Although you can find a lot of good information about diabetes on the Internet, you can also find misleading information.
Sometimes you don’t even need to go online to get incorrect info — family members or friends can impart information that’s inaccurate or misleading without even knowing it.
“I encourage families to seek information from their healthcare provider or reliable websites, such as the American Diabetes Association, the Children’s Diabetes Foundation and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation,” said Janet Haas, RN, certified diabetes educator for Akron Children’s Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology. “If you come across or hear information from family that doesn’t seem quite right or is too good to be true, always check with your diabetes team.”
Haas gets to the bottom of these 12 common myths about diabetes to set the record straight. After all, it’s a matter of your child’s health.
Kids with diabetes can never eat sweets.
False: Kids can have their cake and eat it too, just not the whole cake! Kids with diabetes need to watch the total amount of carbohydrates in their diet, and sugary treats count as carbohydrates. But, this doesn’t mean that they can’t have any sweets.
It just means that they should put the brakes on eating too many sweets and other types of foods that are high in carbs. Eating too many of these foods can also make someone less likely to want to eat healthier foods.
Eating too much sugar causes diabetes.
False: Type 1 diabetes happens when the cells in the pancreas that make insulin are destroyed. This process isn’t related to how much sugar a child eats. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body can’t respond to insulin normally.
In most cases, the tendency to get type 1 and type 2 diabetes is inherited, but eating too many carbs (sugar) can cause weight gain, which can increase a child’s risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Kids with diabetes can’t exercise.
False: Exercise is important for all kids — with or without diabetes! Exercise has many benefits. In addition to helping keep their weight under control (which is helpful for managing diabetes), exercise is good for their heart, it helps them burn off some steam and it relieves stress. Also, exercise is great for blood sugar management.
“Contrary to what some believe, kids don’t need to exercise more than the average child just because he has diabetes,” said Haas. “It’s important to get daily exercise, just like the anybody else.”
Kids can outgrow diabetes.
False: Kids don’t grow out of their diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas stops making insulin and won’t make it again. Kids with type 1 diabetes will always need to take insulin, until a cure for diabetes is found.
Children with type 2 diabetes might find it easier to manage blood sugar levels if they make healthy changes to their lives, like eating well and exercising regularly. But, they’ll probably always have the tendency to develop high blood sugar levels, so it’s important to maintain those healthy lifestyle changes.
“With type 2 diabetes, a child may be able to stop some medications by eating well and exercising regularly,” said Haas. “But, he will still have to monitor his blood sugar.”
Kids can catch diabetes from someone who has it.
False: Diabetes is not contagious, so your child can’t get it from another child. Scientists don’t know exactly how people get type 1 diabetes, but they think it may be associated with something in the environment, like a virus.
But, even coming into contact with such a virus doesn’t mean someone will get diabetes. Kids with type 1 diabetes have to inherit genes that make them more likely to get the disease.
Kids with diabetes can feel when their blood sugar levels are high or low.
False: They may feel certain symptoms (like weakness or headache) if their blood sugar levels are high or low, but the only way to know their blood sugar levels for sure is to test them.
All children with diabetes need to take insulin.
False: All children with type 1 diabetes have to take insulin injections because their pancreases don’t make insulin anymore. Some, but not all, kids with type 2 diabetes have to take insulin — with or without other diabetes medications — to manage their blood sugar levels.
Insulin cures diabetes.
False: Diabetes is a condition that you manage with insulin, but insulin can’t cure it. Insulin helps get glucose out of the blood and into the cells, where it’s used for energy. This helps to keep your child’s blood sugar levels under control, but taking insulin doesn’t correct the reason why diabetes developed, nor does it make the diabetes go away.
Pills for diabetes are a form of insulin.
False: Diabetes medicines that a child takes in pill form are not insulin. Insulin is a protein that would be broken down and destroyed by the acids and digestive enzymes in the stomach and intestines if swallowed. That’s why insulin has to be given as a shot.
“Children with type 2 diabetes sometimes take pills or use insulin,” said Haas. “For kids with type 1 diabetes, pills cannot help them because their bodies don’t make insulin.”
Having to take more insulin means diabetes is getting worse.
False: There is no one-size-fits-all insulin dose. Insulin doses are different for each person. How many carbs your child eats, how active they are and other factors can affect the amount of insulin they’ll need. And insulin doses often need to be changed over time. For example, growth can be a time of insulin change.
Kids with diabetes don’t have to take their insulin or pills when they’re sick.
False: When kids are sick, especially if they’re throwing up or not eating much, having to take insulin is vital because illness raises the blood sugar. Even though he might have to adjust his insulin dose when he’s sick, he can’t skip it altogether.
“You need energy when you’re sick to help your body heal, and insulin helps you use that energy properly,” said Haas. “Parents should talk to their diabetes healthcare team when they’re child is sick and use the sick-day guidelines.”
Low-carb diets are good for kids with diabetes because they should avoid carbs.
False: Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy, and foods containing carbs should provide about half of your child’s calories each day.
They need to follow a diet that contains the right amount of carbs, so they can do the things they enjoy while keeping blood sugar levels under control.
“It would be very difficult for patients to avoid carbs altogether because there’s very little that we eat that doesn’t have carbs,” said Haas. “Instead, we teach carb counting in our center and base insulin doses on the carbs patients are eating.”