Do you live with a chronic illness? Maybe you have asthma, allergies, or
migraine headaches. Or perhaps you or your best friend has diabetes, arthritis,
or cancer. Each day, thousands of teens across America are diagnosed with
chronic illnesses -- long-term health problems they live with 24/7.
There's often no "cure" for chronic illnesses. Still, with new breakthroughs
in treatment, most teens can live active, fulfilling lives. How? By maintaining
good lifestyle habits, taking the prescribed medications or treatment, and
seeing your doctor regularly to monitor your health.
What's the first thing you do when you get home from school? If you're like
most teens, you raid the refrigerator. But snacking on the wrong foods can add
unwanted calories and make you even hungrier when mealtime rolls around. Eating
snacks low in nutritional value does nothing to make you smarter or stronger,
either. The key is to choose healthy snacks that will fill you up and help
nourish you without adding too many calories.
According to internist Harris McIlwain, MD, coach of the Tampa Bay Spirit
boys' soccer team, many active teens have health problems today. McIlwain says
that several of his players have asthma and use their inhalers before and
during the aerobic soccer games. He has also coached teen soccer players with
diabetes in the past.
"If you understand your illness," McIlwain says, "and follow your doctor's
instructions to manage the symptoms, you should be able to do the things you
want to do and enjoy your friends and sports."
Half the problem of living with a chronic illness can be telling your
friends that you have asthma, diabetes, or cancer. While the fear factor is
normal, it can be extra tough when you're a teen. After all, not only is your
body stretching and your hormones exploding, chronic illness feels like another
Teens Rock On
Gary and Rob are both members of the popular Atlanta-based rock band, Ethan
and the Ewox. As well-known musicians they play more than 250 shows a year,
often traveling all night to get to the next town. Would it surprise you to
learn that both Gary and Rob have lived with chronic illnesses most of their
Gary, the drummer for the band, was diagnosed with Type I, or juvenile,
diabetes as a young teen. Type I diabetes is an insulin-dependent form of
diabetes. Insulin is the body hormone that regulates sugar metabolism. This
means Gary must prick his finger more than six times a day -- even on tour --
to check his blood sugar. Once he gets his blood sugar level, he injects
himself with the necessary dose of insulin. He takes injections several times
each day to assure that his body's insulin level is normal (yes, we're talking
needles and shots).
Since his diagnosis around age 12, Gary had to make dramatic lifestyle
changes. His doctor showed him how to check his insulin. A registered dietitian
explained how to change his diet, which pretty much had been fast food at the
time. "But it [diabetes] never got in the way of my drumming," says Gary. "In
fact, I think my drumming has helped me with my diabetes. Drumming for hours
each day is an aerobic workout, and physical activity is a must for those with