Diabetes in Kids Type 2
Diabetes in Kids Type 2

About this topic

Type 2 diabetes is becoming more common in children. Children with type 2 diabetes do not make enough insulin or do not correctly use the insulin their bodies make. When your child eats, their body breaks down all sugars and starches into glucose. Insulin helps their body use the glucose for energy by moving it from the blood into the cells. If you do not have enough insulin, the glucose or sugar stays in the blood instead of going into the cells. This causes your child’s blood sugar levels to be too high.
Diabetes does not go away. Your child will control it with eating correctly, exercise, 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 for both of these conditions.
  • Let your child’s school know 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 may 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. Talk to your doctor about an exercise program for your child. It may help control your child’s blood sugar level. 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. Learn what size portions are right for your child. You may need to balance the amount of sugar, starches, fat, and protein in your child’s food. It is important that each meal is eaten at the same time each day. Do not let your child skip a meal. Have healthy snacks on hand in case meals are not on time.

What foods are good to eat?

Whole grains like:

  • Brown rice
  • Wild rice
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Whole wheat or whole grain bread
  • High fiber cereal
  • Dry steel-cut oats
  • English muffin

Fruits and vegetables like:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Cooked vegetables, like squash, green beans, cauliflower, carrots, and cabbage
  • Raw vegetables or salad greens
  • Apple or orange
  • Unsweetened fruit juice

Proteins like:

  • Lean beef or pork
  • Chicken, skin removed
  • Turkey, skin removed
  • Fish (not fried)
  • Low-fat lunch meat
  • Cooked beans − black, kidney, chickpeas, or lentils
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts, almonds or pistachios

Dairy like:

  • Skim or low fat milk
  • Low fat cheese
  • Low fat yogurt

What foods should be limited or avoided?

High fat or processed foods like:

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

Fats and oils like:

  • Stick margarine or butter
  • Salad dressings

Foods 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.

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. Keeping a healthy body weight can also help control type 2 diabetes. Ask your doctor what weight is best for your child. Diabetes can be managed through diet, exercise, 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. Know how much to take in case of a 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. Check all items in kit for 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 2 in kids, Lexicomp, Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc