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7 Diabetes in the Dance Class Author: Stacey Nickol, BSc HNS RD As dance teachers it is important to be knowledgeable about diabetes and supportive to students who have both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. Open communication between the teacher, student and parents is important, as well as clarifying if the child is able to provide their own self-care, (i.e. test blood sugars, administer medication etc.). Dance teachers should be knowledgeable on appropriate management of acute situations including hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia and be able to recognize signs and symptoms of altered blood sugars in their students with diabetes. Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar is blood sugar reading less than 4 mmol/L. It is more likely to occur with prolonged or intense activity, or it may develop several hours after activity. No food, or inadequate food intake prior to activity, increases the likelihood of developing hypoglycemia. A meal containing carbohydrate, fats and protein consumed a few hours before activity will help prevent blood sugar lows. Signs and symptoms of a low blood sugar include: trembling, rapid heart rate, sweating, hunger and/or nausea. A blood sugar reading less than 2.5 mmol/L is too low for normal brain function. Signs and symptoms include: difficulty concentrating, irritability, blurred or double vision, difficulty hearing, slurred speech, poor judgment and confusion, dizziness and unsteadiness, tiredness, inconsolable crying, loss of consciousness and seizures. A low blood sugar should be treated immediately with a fast-acting carbohydrate food. Some examples include ž cup juice or pop, 1 tablespoon honey, 6 hard candies, 1 tablespoon sugar dissolved in water or 3 sugar packets or 15 grams of glucose tablets. (Note that foods both high in fat and sugar (i.e. chocolate bars), slow down the absorption of the sugar in those foods and are not suitable for treatment of a low). Test after 10 – 15 minutes, if the values are still low, (less than 4 mmol/L); continue to treat with the fast-acting carbohydrate. The child should eat a snack once recovered. Hyperglycemia or high blood sugar is a blood sugar reading at or above 11mmol/L. It can result after excessive carbohydrate intake, decreased medication doses as well as due to the emotional response of activity and competition. Early signs and symptoms of a high blood sugar include: frequent urination, increased thirst, blurred vision, fatigue and headache. Later signs and symptoms include: fruity-smelling breath, nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath, dry mouth, weakness, confusion, abdominal pain and coma. A high blood sugar during exercise is typically treated with medication. The amount and type is dependent on several factors and therefore it is critical to know ahead of time if the child is able to self-manage their diabetes. It is also important for the child to drink lots of fluid to prevent dehydration. Being able to recognize early signs and symptoms of hyper and hypoglycemia is of most importance when teaching young children, as children are not as in tune to their bodily cues as adults. In addition, permit the student the freedom to test and treat their blood sugar as necessary. A knowledgeable and supportive dance teacher and studio makes for an excellent environment for students to feel safe and secure, with the ability to focus on dance, learning and having fun! For more information on diabetes visit the Canadian Diabetes Association @

AD4L November 2012  

Focusing on diabetes awareness in the studio, rest & overtraining, and envisioning your future via visionboarding.

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