Discusses high blood sugar (also called hyperglycemia) in children with diabetes. Covers symptoms. Discusses diabetic ketoacidosis. Offers tips on preventing high blood sugar emergencies. Covers when to seek emergency care.
Diabetes in Children: Preventing High Blood Sugar
sugar, also called hyperglycemia, occurs when the sugar (glucose) level in the
blood rises above normal. For a person who has
diabetes, high blood sugar may be caused by missed
diabetes medicine or insulin injection, eating too much, skipping physical
activity, or illness or stress. The rapid growth during the teen years can also
make it harder to keep your child's blood sugar levels within a target
blood sugar, high blood sugar usually develops slowly over a period of hours or
days. But it can also develop quickly (in just a few hours) if you eat a large
meal or miss an insulin dose. Blood sugar levels just above the target range may
make a person feel tired and thirsty. If your child's blood sugar level stays
higher than normal, his or her body will adjust to that level. Over time, high
blood sugar damages the eyes, heart, kidneys, blood vessels, and nerves. If
your child's blood sugar continues to rise, his or her kidneys will increase
the amount of urine produced and your child can become dehydrated. If your
child becomes severely dehydrated, he or she can go into a coma and possibly
Unless you or your child fails to notice the symptoms, you
usually have time to treat high blood sugar so that it doesn't become an
emergency situation. Three steps can help you prevent high blood sugar
Test your child's blood sugar often, especially
during illnesses or when he or she is not following a normal routine. A child
may not have symptoms of high blood sugar, which are fatigue and increased
thirst and urination.
Notify the doctor if your child has frequent
high blood sugar levels or the blood sugar level is consistently staying above
the target range. The medicine or insulin dosage may need to be adjusted or
Encourage your child to drink extra water or
noncaffeinated, sugar-free drinks to prevent dehydration.
The best ways
to prevent a high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) emergency are to check blood
sugar levels often, be prepared for emergencies, treat high blood sugar
promptly, treat infections right away, and make sure your child gets plenty of
Treat infections early
Untreated infections, such
as urinary tract infections and skin infections, can increase your child's risk
of a high blood sugar emergency.
symptoms of high blood sugar. Post them in a place
where you and your child can see them often, such as on your refrigerator door.
Add any symptoms your child has had that are not on the list. Make sure other
people know the symptoms and what to do in an emergency. Symptoms of high blood sugar include increased thirst, increased urination, and fatigue.
child's blood sugar at home often, especially when your child is sick or not
following his or her normal routine. Testing your child's blood sugar at home
will help you know when it is high, even if your child doesn't notice
Teach others involved in your child's care how to check
blood sugar. Keep instructions for using the blood sugar meter with the meter
so someone else could test your child's blood sugar if needed.
your child wear medical identification, such as a
medical alert bracelet, at all times. This is very important in case your child
is too sick or injured to speak.
If your child is taking insulin, do a
test for ketones, especially if your
child's blood sugar is higher than 300 mg/dL.
Develop a plan. Usually people who take insulin need to
take extra fast-acting insulin when their blood sugar levels are high. Talk
with your child's doctor about how much the child needs to take, depending on
his or her blood sugar level (sliding scale).
Give your child's
medicines as prescribed. Don't skip the medicines for diabetes or insulin
injections without first talking with your doctor.
Treat high blood sugar early
The best way to
prevent high blood sugar emergencies is to treat high blood sugar as soon as
your child has symptoms or when his or her blood sugar is significantly above
the target range (200 mg/dL or higher).
Keep a record. Write down your child's
symptoms and how you treated them, and take the record with you when you visit
your child's doctor. Use a
blood sugar record(What is a PDF document?).
Let your child's doctor know if your child is having high blood
sugar problems. The medicine for diabetes may need to be adjusted or
changed. If your child is taking insulin, the dose may need to be
Offer plenty of liquids
If your child's blood
sugar levels are above his or her target range, offer extra liquids to replace the
fluids lost through the kidneys. Water and sugar-free drinks are best. Avoid
caffeinated drinks, regular soda pop, fruit juice, and other liquids that
contain a lot of sugar.
Primary Medical Reviewer
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Stephen LaFranchi, MD - Pediatrics, Pediatric Endocrinology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.