Live Brave Mana Ora Do Blue Day on Tuesday 14 November aims to raise awareness and support for young Kiwis with Type 1 diabetes. There are nearly 300,000 people in New Zealand diagnosed with diabetes – of these over 4000 are children under the age of 19 that live with Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is a chronic, life-long health condition that requires constant daily monitoring and management.
What is Do Blue Day?
Do Blue Day is a yearly fundraiser that usually takes place on World Diabetes Day. Schools and other organisations wear or decorate themselves in blue to support the fundraising effort. A blue circle is the global symbol for diabetes awareness and is the logo of World Diabetes Day. The 14 of November is a significant date as it is the birthday of Sir Frederick Banting, who, along with Charles Best discovered insulin in 1922.
What is Type 1 diabetes?
This health condition develops when the body can’t make enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels in a normal range. Being an auto-immune disease, the body attacks its own cells – the beta cells in the pancreas that are responsible for producing insulin.
Who gets Type 1 Diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes (also known as insulin-dependent diabetes) is an autoimmune disease that for now, has no cure. It is unknown what causes the body’s normal immune system to turn on itself, and attack the insulin-producing islet cells in the pancreas. Possible causes are thought to be genetics (there is a higher chance of developing Type 1 diabetes if you have a parent or sibling with the condition), viral infection, exposure to environmental factors, and geography – interestingly the number of people with Type 1 diabetes increases the further away you live from the equator.
Type 1 diabetes can occur at any age but is most common in kids aged between seven and 12 years of age. It can be well managed with a combination of medicine (insulin either injected or via a pump), good nutrition, exercise and lots of support.
Symptoms to look out for:
Type 1 diabetes symptoms can occur suddenly so it is very important to see a doctor if you notice several of these signs or symptoms in yourself or someone you love:
- very thirsty
- passing a lot of urine
- weight loss
- very tired
- change in mood
- very hungry
- poor concentration
- abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting
- cuts that are slow to heal
- leg cramps
- blurred vision
- frequent infections, especially skin.
A new diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes is a steep learning curve for children and their families. It can bring about feelings of overwhelm, grief, confusion, relief and fear. It can feel like learning a new language as there are lots of medical terms and diabetes words and their meanings to learn very quickly. Fortunately there are support systems and resources that have been set up to help young people that have received the news they have Type 1 diabetes.
- Diabetes New Zealand have resource packs available to help children and young adults. The pack includes a manual for parents, a graphic novel about understanding diabetes, an action plan for school/daycare, blood glucose logbook, a kit for monitoring blood glucose, a hypokit, and a carry case for all the daily diabetes supplies.
- For younger children with Type 1 diabetes, aged four to ten years, a Brave Bear Pack with Jerry the Bear (who also has Type 1 diabetes!) and an app helps smaller people navigate their new world. This pack not only helps with managing diabetes, but reinforces that people with Type 1 diabetes can still be fully involved with life activities, play sport and with their friends.
Support Do Blue Day if you can by dressing in blue or helping decorate your work or school space in blue. If a Type 1 diabetes diagnosis has been given to yourself or a family member, make use of online resources, support groups and information from your local health professionals. You can live well with Type 1 diabetes.