Might My Child Have Type 1 Diabetes?

Medically Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on December 12, 2022
3 min read

Every parent knows babies and small children sleep and drink a lot. But if your child is suddenly much drowsier or thirstier than usual, it could be a symptom of type 1 diabetes.

It used to be called juvenile diabetes because most of the people who got it were young children. Your child could get type 1 diabetes as an infant, or later, as a toddler or a teen. Most often, it appears after age 5. But some people don’t get it until their late 30s.

Know the symptoms of type 1 diabetes so you can help keep your child healthy.

It’s not the same as “classic” or type 2 diabetes, which is often linked to obesity and seen in adults (but it can occur in children too, usually after age 10).

If your child has type 1 diabetes, it means their pancreas -- an organ in the upper-right side of the belly -- makes little or no insulin. The condition is an autoimmune disorder, which means it happens when the body’s defense system attacks and destroys cells that make insulin.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes in infants and children can start very suddenly. Keep an eye out for these signs in your baby or child:


  • Sudden strange behavior (acting “drunk”)
  • Breath that smells fruity, sweet, or like wine
  • Extreme drowsiness or lack of energy
  • Ongoing, intense thirst
  • Grunting while breathing
  • Heavy breathing
  • Huge appetite
  • Sudden vision changes
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Peeing more often (infants and toddlers may have more wet diapers than usual)
  • Difficulty breathing

Type 1 diabetes may cause sudden, extreme swings in blood sugar that can be dangerous. If you notice any of the symptoms of diabetes in your child, it’s important to get them a physical exam as soon as possible, so their doctor can begin treatment right away.

The doctor will do a simple urine test to check for glucose (sugar) in the urine and a finger stick to measure preliminary blood glucose level. A more involved test, called an oral glucose tolerance test, can tell for certain if it’s type 1 diabetes. Your child will need to follow a special diet before this procedure.

If your child has already been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, call your doctor if you notice any of these signs of a low blood sugar emergency:

Low blood sugar can be life-threatening to children with type 1 diabetes. Always call 911 or get emergency medical help if your child ever passes out or has seizures.