5 Things Parents Should Know About Kids and Diabetes

University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children'sExperts in Children's Health
kids and diabetes

As a parent, learning all you can about diabetes is one of the best ways to help your child manage this condition. Here are five things you may want to know.

You can ease fears about finger pricks and insulin injections

  • Ask about insulin pens or short needle insulin syringes – they can be less painful for kids.
  • Ask your child’s doctor if you can practice on yourself using saline.
  • Help your child relax and breathe deeply – this will make it hurt less.
  • Kiss the area before and after – and give your child a big hug.
  • Use fresh lancets each time to check blood sugars – they hurt less.
  • Ask about continuous glucose monitoring (CGMs). These devices monitor blood sugars every few minutes and provide detailed information about blood glucose control throughout the day without having to do finger pick testing.
  • Ask about insulin pumps. Insulin pumps help in delivery of insulin without the need for multiple injections every day. Some pumps communicate with CGMs and adjust insulin delivery automatically to minimize occurrence of high and low blood sugars.

Exercise is vital

Exercise helps lower blood sugar levels and manage weight,” says Anuradha Viswanathan, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s. “Staying at a healthy weight in childhood can make it easier to maintain a healthy weight as an adult.”

Help your child find ways to be active for at least an hour every day, whether it is riding a bike in the neighborhood or just playing tag in the backyard.

Some target A1c levels have changed

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) lowered the target A1c levels for children with type 1 diabetes. An A1c test measures blood sugar levels over a few months.  The ADA recommends that all children under age 18 aim for an A1c level lower than 7.5 percent.

“The ADA lowered the target level because it found high blood sugar levels can lead to serious problems,” Dr. Viswanathan says.

Most children with type 2 diabetes should keep their A1c levels at 7 percent or lower. If you have any questions about your child’s A1c levels, talk with his or her doctor.

There is no need to make special meals

A diet for diabetes is a healthy diet for your whole family. Here are some diabetes diet basics:

  • Choose carbs with lots of fiber, such as fresh fruits and vegetables and whole-grain breads and cereals.
  • Choose heart-healthy fats, such as vegetable oils, avocados, nuts and low-fat mayonnaise.
  • Drink plenty of water. Sugar-free soda and sugar-free fruit drinks are also acceptable choices.
  • Enjoy lean proteins, such as fish, lean meats, poultry without the skin, low-fat cheese, eggs, beans, nuts and soy foods.

You do not have to shy away from celebrations

Follow these tips to help your child have a fun and safe time:

  • Ask your child’s doctor how to handle eating extra carbs on special occasions.
  • Make sure you have a healthy treat your child enjoys on hand to make the event special for him or her.

Related links

When children with diabetes get sick during cold & flu season, it is important to closely monitor their blood sugar levels and other symptoms to prevent serious complications. Learn how to manage your child’s diabetes while he or she is sick, what symptoms to look out for and when to contact their doctor.