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Diabetes Mellitus Type 1 In Children


Diabetes mellitus type 1 is a disease that affects how your child's body makes insulin and uses glucose (sugar). Insulin helps move sugar out of the blood so it can be used for energy. Normally, when the blood sugar level increases, the pancreas makes more insulin. Type 1 diabetes develops because your child's immune system destroys pancreas cells that make insulin. His pancreas cannot make enough insulin, so his blood sugar level continues to rise.



  • Insulin: Your child will need 1 or more doses of insulin each day. Insulin can be injected or given through an insulin pump. Ask your child's healthcare provider which method is best for your child. You and your child will be taught how to give insulin injections if this is the best method for him. Give your child insulin as directed. Too much insulin may cause his blood sugar level to go too low. You will be taught how to adjust each insulin dose he takes with meals. Always check his blood sugar level before the meal. The dose will be based on his blood sugar level, carbohydrates in the meal, and activity after the meal.

  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Call your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Have your child's eyes checked for retinopathy every 2 years. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Check your child's blood sugar level as directed:

You will be taught how to use a glucose monitor. You will need to check your child's blood sugar level at least 3 times each day. Ask his healthcare provider when and how often to check during the day. Ask what your child's blood sugar levels should be before and after he eats. You may need to check for ketones in his urine or blood if his level is higher than directed. Write down the results, and show them to your healthcare provider. He may use the results to make changes to your child's medicine, food, or exercise schedules.

If your child's blood sugar level is too low:

Ask your child's healthcare provider for a plan to use if your child's blood sugar level is below 70 mg/dL. Ask how much fast-acting carbohydrate or how many glucose tablets to give your child. Check his level again 15 minutes later. If it is above 70 mg/dL, give him a small snack. If it is still below 70 mg/dL, give him fast-acting carbohydrates or glucose tablets as directed. Ask your child's healthcare provider for more information on diabetic hypoglycemia (low blood sugar level).

Medical alert identification:

Have your child wear medical alert jewelry or carry a card that says he has diabetes. Ask his healthcare provider where to get these items.

Medical alert ID bracelet

Diabetes education:

Healthcare providers will teach you how to manage your child's diabetes. They may visit you at home, or you may attend classes. They will teach you what to do if your child's blood sugar level goes too high or too low. They will also help you plan sick day management. Ask how to dispose of used needles and syringes.

Give directions to officials at your child's school:

Make sure your child's teachers know he has diabetes. Provide written instructions about what to do if your child has symptoms of high or low blood sugar levels at school.

Foot care:

Have your child's feet checked at least once each year for problems that may develop if his diabetes is not controlled. Long-term high blood sugar levels can damage nerves and blood vessels. Your child may lose feeling in his feet because of nerve damage. Check your child's feet each day for sores. Make sure his shoes and socks fit correctly. Ask your child's healthcare provider for more details about foot care.


Your child's dietitian will help you create a meal plan to keep your child's blood sugar level steady. Your child should not skip meals to control his blood sugar level. His blood sugar level may drop too low if he has taken diabetes medicine and does not eat.

  • Keep track of carbohydrates (sugar and starchy foods): Your child's blood sugar level can get too high if he eats too many carbohydrates. His dietitian will help you plan meals and snacks that have the right amount of carbohydrates.

  • Offer low-fat and low-sodium foods: Examples of low-fat foods are lean meat, fish, skinless poultry (chicken and turkey), and low-fat milk. Limit foods that are high in sodium, such as soy sauce, potato chips, and soup. Do not add salt to food you cook. Limit your child's use of table salt.

  • Offer high-fiber foods: Foods that are a good source of fiber include vegetables, whole grain bread, and beans.


Exercise can help keep your child's blood sugar level steady and help him lose weight. Have your child exercise for at least 60 minutes on most days of the week. Work with your child's healthcare provider to create an exercise plan. Your child may need a carbohydrate snack before, during, or after he exercises. Check his blood sugar level before and after he exercises. If his blood sugar level is less than 100 mg/dL, give him a carbohydrate snack before exercise. Examples are 4 to 6 crackers, ½ banana, 8 ounces (1 cup) of milk, or 4 ounces (½ cup) of juice. If your child's blood sugar level is high, check his blood or urine for ketones before he exercises. Do not let your child exercise if his blood sugar level is high and he has ketones in his urine or blood.

No smoking:

Cigarette smoke can worsen the problems that may occur with diabetes. Do not smoke around your child, and do not let others smoke around him. Do not let your child smoke. Ask your child's healthcare provider for information about how to stop smoking if you need help quitting.


Diabetes can put your child at risk of serious illness if he gets the flu or pneumonia. Ask your child's healthcare provider if your child should get a flu or pneumonia vaccine, and when to get the vaccine.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child is vomiting or has diarrhea.

  • Your child has an upset stomach and cannot eat the foods on his meal plan.

  • Your child feels dizzy or has headaches.

  • Your child feels weak or more tired than usual.

  • Your child has numbness in his arms or legs.

  • Your child has red, dry skin.

  • Your child gets easily irritated.

  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your child's blood sugar level is lower than directed and does not improve with treatment.

  • Your child has blurred or double vision.

  • Your child is having trouble staying awake or focusing.

  • Your child is shaking or sweating.

  • Your child's breath has a fruity, sweet smell, or his breathing is deep and labored.

  • Your child's heartbeat is fast and weak.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Diabetes Mellitus Type 1 In Children (Discharge Care)