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6 Things to Know About Kids and Diabetes

University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children'sExperts in Children's Health
A young girl reads her blood sugar level by placing her cellphone next to her pump in her arm as she sits at a dining table

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

1: You can overcome fears about finger pricks and insulin injections with new technology.

  • Ask about insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors – they decrease the number of “pokes” needed to manage diabetes, as well as many other advantages.
  • If you use insulin injections, ask for the smallest size needle recommended for your child’s insulin pens or syringes.
  • If you use lancets, use a fresh one each time, and one that is adjustable to different depths – they hurt less.
  • Help your child relax and breathe deeply – this will make it more comfortable.
  • Let your child choose where to have their next finger stick or injection – and when they’re ready, support them in doing it themselves.

2: Exercise is vital.

“Exercise allows our bodies to use insulin more efficiently, which can lower blood sugar levels and stabilize weight,” says Erika Lundgrin, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s. “Staying active in childhood makes it easier to maintain a healthy lifestyle as an adult.” Help your child find ways to be active for at least an hour every day, whether it is participating in sports or just playing tag in the backyard.

3: Some target blood sugar levels have changed.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recently lowered the target A1c levels for children with type 1 diabetes. An A1c test measures blood sugar levels over a few months. The ADA now recommends that most children under age 19 aim for an A1c level lower than 7 percent.

“The ADA lowered the target A1c in kids because high blood sugar levels over the long-term can lead to serious problems,” says Dr. Lundgrin. If you have any questions about your child’s A1c levels, talk with his or her doctor.

4: 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, vegetables and whole-grain breads and cereals.
  • Choose heart-healthy fats, such as vegetable oils, avocados, nuts and seeds.
  • Drink plenty of water. Milk and sugar-free drinks are also good choices.
  • Enjoy lean proteins, such as fish, lean meats and poultry without the skin, low-fat cheese, eggs, beans, nuts and soy foods.

5: You should have a plan for school.

Talk with your child’s doctor about creating a diabetes medical management plan (DMMP) to share with the school nurse and other personnel. A DMMP outlines all the care your child needs during school hours.

6: You do not have to shy away from parties.

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

  • Ask your child’s doctor how to plan for eating extra carbs on special occasions.
  • Tell the host parents about your child’s diabetes.
  • Explain if there is anything special your child will need to do during the party, such as checking blood sugar.
  • If you prefer, ask if you can provide a separate treat your child enjoys.

Related Links

The Diabetes Center at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's is committed to treating all types of diabetes in children.