Diabetes in Kids Type 1
Diabetes in Kids Type 1

About this topic

Type 1 diabetes is a health problem where your child’s immune system destroys the organ that makes insulin. The body needs insulin to control the amount of sugar in the blood. Food contains sugar. The insulin changes this sugar into energy which is used by the body for many different functions.
Diabetes does not go away. Your child will control it with eating correctly and taking drugs as ordered by a doctor.


What lifestyle changes are needed?

  • Help your child learn how to check blood sugar levels. Ask the doctor your child’s goal blood sugar ranges. Your child needs to know the signs of too high and too low blood sugar levels. Make sure your child knows what to do if either of these happen.
  • Let your child’s school staff know that your child is diabetic and needs drugs daily. Share this news with coaches as well.
  • Have your child wear a medical alert ID in case of emergency.

What drugs may be needed?

Give the drugs to your child as told by your doctor. Do not change or stop giving drugs without asking your doctor.

  • Your child will need shots of insulin a few times a day. Talk to your child’s doctor about what type of insulin is best for your child.
  • You will need to have a quick sugar source on hand if the sugar level becomes too low. A quick sugar source includes glucose liquid or tablets. Hard candies and sugary beverages may also be used for an emergency. Ask your doctor how much of these items to take for a low blood sugar.

Will physical activity be limited?

Physical activities will not be limited. Let your child be active. Your child may do things like running or fast walking, riding bikes, swimming, dancing, or playing sports.
Always check your child’s blood sugar before and after exercise. It is important to know how your child’s body responds. Have your child drink water before, during, and after exercise.

What changes to diet are needed?

You have to work closely with your doctor or dietitian on what food your child may eat. You may need to balance the amount of sugar, starches, fat, and protein in your child’s food. It is important that each meal should be eaten at the same time each day. Do not let your child skip a meal.

What foods are good to eat?

Whole grains like:

  • 1/3 cup (80 grams) brown rice
  • 1/3 cup (80 grams) wild rice
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) whole wheat pasta
  • 1 slice whole wheat or whole grain bread
  • 3/4 cup (180 grams) hot fiber cereal
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) dry steel-cut oats
  • 1/2 English muffin

Fruits and vegetables like:

  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) cooked vegetables, like squash, green beans, cauliflower, carrots, and cabbage
  • 1 cup (240 grams) raw vegetables or salad greens
  • 1 small apple or orange
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) unsweetened fruit juice
  • 1 ounce (30 grams) lean beef or pork
  • 1 ounce (30 grams) chicken, skin removed
  • 1 ounce (30 grams) turkey, skin removed
  • 1 ounce (30 grams) fish
  • 1 ounce (30 grams) low-fat cheese or lunch meat
  • 1/2 cup (120 grams) cooked beans − black, kidney, chickpeas, or lentils
  • 1 whole egg

What foods should be limited or avoided?

High fat or processed foods like:

  • Bacon
  • Sausages
  • Hot dogs
  • Processed snacks like granola bars, cheese crackers, or fruit snacks

Fats and oils like:

  • Margarine
  • Salad dressings

Foods that are high in cholesterol or salt, like:

  • Egg yolks
  • Shellfish
  • Liver
  • Organ meats
  • Table salt

Starches that are not whole grain, like:

  • White rice
  • White potatoes
  • French fries
  • Pasta
  • White bread
  • Sugary cereals
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Baked goods, pastries
  • Croissants
  • Candy
  • Soda
  • Sugar filled beverages like sports drinks, punch, lemonade, sweet tea

What problems could happen?

If this illness is not controlled, your child may have problems with the:

  • Eyes
  • Heart
  • Kidneys
  • Feet
  • Nerves

Your child may also have problems with infections or sores that do not heal. They may also have problems breaking down food.

What can be done to prevent this health problem?

This is a life-long problem and you cannot cure it. Your child can still lead a normal life. Your child may be able to prevent complications by controlling their blood sugar. Diabetes can be managed through diet, drugs, and with the help of family members and friends.

When do I need to call the doctor?

Call the doctor if your child’s blood sugar is out of their goal range. Watch for these signs:

  • Low blood sugar. Signs are anger, shaking, a fast heartbeat, confusion, or sweating. Keep glucose tablets or liquid glucose on hand for low blood sugar.
  • High blood sugar. Signs are sleepiness, extra thirst, passing urine a lot, dry skin and mouth, breath has fruity odor, passing out.
  • Upset stomach or throwing up
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Belly pain
  • Weight loss

Helpful tips

Make sure your child always carries a diabetes emergency kit. This should have things like a list of current drugs, glucometer and strips, insulin and syringes, glucose tablets and glucagon. Talk to your doctor about what to include. Make sure everything has a current date, as some of these things can expire.

Where can I learn more?



National Diabetes Education Program

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse

Reference: Diabetes type 1 in kids, Lexicomp, Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc