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Diabetes Health Center

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Type 1 Diabetes: Children Living With the Disease - Topic Overview

This topic covers type 1 diabetes in children. For information about type 1 diabetes in adults and about preventing complications from type 1 diabetes, see the topic Type 1 Diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes develops when the pancreas camera.gif stops making insulin. Your body needs insulin to let sugar (glucose) move from the blood into the body's cells, where it can be used for energy or stored for later use.

Without insulin, the sugar cannot get into the cells to do its work. It stays in the blood instead. This can cause high blood sugar levels. A person has diabetes when the blood sugar is too high.

Your child can live a long, healthy life by learning to manage his or her diabetes. It will become a big part of your and your child's life.

You play a major role in helping your child take charge of his or her diabetes care. Let your child do as much of the care as possible. At the same time, give your child the support and guidance he or she needs.

The key to managing diabetes is to keep blood sugar levels in a target range. To do this, your child needs to take insulin, eat about the same amount of carbohydrate at each meal, and exercise. Part of your child's daily routine also includes checking his or her blood sugar levels at certain times, as advised by your doctor.

The longer a person has diabetes, the more likely he or she is to have problems, such as diseases of the eyes, heart, blood vessels, nerves, and kidneys. For some reason, children seem protected from these problems during childhood. But if your child can control his or her blood sugar levels every day, it may help prevent problems later on.

Even when you are careful and do all the right things, your child can have problems with low or high blood sugar. Teach your child to look for signs of low and high blood sugar and to know what to do if this happens.

  • If your child has low blood sugar, he or she may sweat a lot and feel weak, shaky, or hungry. But your child's symptoms may be different. Low blood sugar happens quickly. A person can get low blood sugar within minutes after exercise or after taking insulin without eating enough.
  • If your child has high blood sugar, he or she may be very thirsty or hungry, have to urinate more often than usual, or have blurry vision. High blood sugar usually develops slowly over hours or days.
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