Diabetes in Children: Preventing High Blood Sugar

Overview

High blood sugar occurs when the sugar (glucose) level in the blood rises above your child's target range. It can happen if your child:

  • Misses a dose of insulin or diabetes medicine.
  • Eats more than usual.
  • Is under emotional stress.
  • Has an illness, such as the flu or an infection.
  • Takes a medicine that raises blood sugar as a side effect. Examples include medicines that reduce inflammation (corticosteroids) and some decongestants.
  • Starts puberty. Hormonal changes affect how well the body uses insulin. These changes can cause higher blood sugar levels.

Some children who take insulin may have very high blood sugar in the morning, even if it was low at bedtime. This could be caused by the dawn phenomenon. Talk with your child's doctor if this happens.

How can you prevent high blood sugar?

High blood sugar usually happens slowly over hours or days. But it can also happen quickly (in just a few hours) if your child eats a large meal or misses a dose of diabetes medicine or insulin. These tips can help you prevent high blood sugar emergencies.

  • Know the symptoms of high blood sugar.
    • Symptoms of high blood sugar include feeling very thirsty, feeling very tired, and urinating more than usual.
    • Post a list of the symptoms in a place where you and your child can see it often, such as on your refrigerator door. Add any symptoms your child has had that aren't on the list.
  • Check your child's blood sugar often.
    • This is especially important when your child is sick or is not following a normal routine. A child may not have symptoms of high blood sugar. Testing lets you see when your child's blood sugar is above the target range, even if your child doesn't have symptoms.
    • Keep a record of high blood sugar levels. Write down your child's symptoms and how you treated them. Take the record with you when you see your child's doctor.
    • Call your doctor if your child often has high blood sugar or if the blood sugar level is often above the target range. Your child's medicine may need to be adjusted or changed.
  • Teach others about high blood sugar.
    • Show other people involved in your child's care how to check your child's blood sugar. Keep instructions for using the blood sugar meter with the meter.
    • Make sure they know the symptoms of high blood sugar. Teach them what to do in case of an emergency.
  • Have a plan for dealing with high blood sugar.
    • Your doctor will give your child blood sugar goals and recommend ways to treat high blood sugar. Follow these instructions when your child's blood sugar is high.
    • Keep a record of high blood sugar levels. Write down your child's symptoms and how you treated them. Take the record with you when you see your child's doctor.
  • Treat infections early.

    Infections that aren't treated can raise your child's risk for a high blood sugar emergency.

  • Give your child's medicines as prescribed.

    Don't skip or change the dose of diabetes medicine or insulin without first talking with your child's doctor.

  • Offer plenty of fluids.
    • If your child's blood sugar levels are above the target range, offer extra liquids. This can help prevent dehydration.
    • Water and sugar-free drinks are best. Avoid caffeinated drinks, regular soda pop, fruit juice, and other liquids that have a lot of sugar.
  • Have your child wear medical identification at all times.

    Wearing a medical alert ID such as a bracelet, necklace, or temporary tattoo is very important in case your child is too sick to speak.

Credits

Current as of: April 13, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
John Pope MD - Pediatrics
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Stephen LaFranchi MD - Pediatrics, Pediatric Endocrinology