You may have been told that your child has type 1 diabetes. This means your child's body has trouble using a sugar called glucose for energy.

Type 1 diabetes develops when the body's natural defense system causes the body to destroy the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. Insulin is produced by the pancreas and is needed to take glucose from the bloodstream into the cells, where it is used as fuel. Without insulin, energy from food cannot be used. This leads to dangerously high blood glucose levels.

Signs and Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes come on suddenly, and may include weight loss, fatigue, and increased thirst and urination.

Risk Factors

Type 1 diabetes usually occurs in children and young adults. The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is not known, but it is not caused by eating too much sugar. Type 1 diabetes can run in families, but it is important to remember that it is not your fault. Nothing you or your child did caused diabetes.


Type 1 diabetes is diagnosed by taking blood samples from your child to measure how much glucose is in the bloodstream.


Type 1 diabetes cannot be cured, but you can learn to manage your child's diabetes. The goal is to keep your child's blood glucose in a healthy range. To do this, you will learn to balance insulin with nutritious food and physical activity, monitor your child's blood glucose, and adjust your child's treatment to keep blood glucose levels steady.

Insulin: Your child's healthcare provider will prescribe insulin to help keep your child's blood glucose in a healthy range. Insulin must be given through a needle and syringe, an insulin pen, or an insulin pump.

Blood Glucose Levels: To see how well the medication is working, your child's healthcare team will show you how to set blood glucose target ranges and monitor your child's blood glucose levels.

Despite your best efforts, there will be times when your child's blood glucose level becomes too low or too high, but you can take action to bring it back into the target range. You may need to check your child's blood glucose levels several times each day.

Blood glucose numbers are a tool to help you make decisions about your child's management plan. Periodic adjustments to the plan are normal. How quickly your child adjusts to diabetes care may depend on how comfortable you are with injections and blood glucose checks.

Talk with your healthcare provider about ways to practice your injection skills and ways to help your child deal with blood glucose checks and insulin shots.

Hypoglycemia: Too little glucose in the blood is called hypoglycemia, or low blood glucose. This can happen when too little is eaten, a snack is delayed, activity increases, or too much insulin is given.

Pay especially close attention to infants and very young children. Your child may have low blood glucose if he or she is pale, fussy, irritable, sweaty, drowsy, or staring into space. Act quickly to prevent seizures or loss of consciousness.

Hyperglycemia: Too much glucose in the blood is called hyperglycemia, or high blood glucose. Hyperglycemia can happen because of stress, illness, surgery, infection, or lack of insulin in the blood, and it can lead to ketoacidosis.

Ketoacidosis can lead to shock, coma, and in some cases even death. Symptoms of ketoacidosis include fruity-smelling breath, nausea and vomiting, dehydration, abdominal pain, muscle cramps, blurred vision, and fever.

Nutrition: There are no forbidden foods for people with diabetes. Your child can eat the same foods as the rest of the family. Healthy food choices can help control your child's blood glucose, and help keep your child healthy. Your child's healthcare team will help you create a nutritious meal plan.

Eating regularly also helps balance blood glucose and insulin. Try to schedule meals and snacks at the same times each day. Talk with your healthcare team about how to handle holidays and events. Children with diabetes can celebrate special occasions and enjoy occasional treats.

Schedule an appointment with a dietitian at least yearly to address your growing child's needs.

Activity: Physical activity controls weight, strengthens the body, helps to manage blood glucose, and helps lower your child's risk for heart disease. Your child's healthcare team will show you how to manage your child's blood glucose during exercise, when to check blood glucose, and which blood glucose ranges may make exercise unsafe.

Preventing Complications

Managing diabetes every day lowers the risk of other health problems later in life. To stay healthy, your child may need to see a healthcare provider several times per year.

You should also learn how to manage your child's diabetes during common illnesses such as a cold or the flu. It is especially important to keep your child's eyes, feet, skin, and heart healthy. Schedule your child's exams as often as recommended.

Caring for Diabetes at School

Your child has the right to receive proper diabetes care and equal treatment at school. Each year, explain the details of your child's treatment plan to teachers and school officials. Be certain everyone knows what to do and who to call in an emergency.

Your child may be embarrassed about diabetes or feel pressured to stray from the diabetes plan away from home. Your child's healthcare team can teach your child how to talk about diabetes with friends and classmates.


Keeping blood glucose in range for preteens and teens may be a challenge due to the hormones that cause puberty. Encourage your teenager to handle some of the responsibility for blood glucose checks, but closely monitor the results. Sit down with your teen at least once a week to talk about blood glucose results. Over time, your teen should become more independent in diabetes care.

Coping with Diabetes

Managing diabetes can feel overwhelming at times. Depression may become an issue as your child realizes that diabetes does not go away. Contact your child's healthcare provider if your child withdraws from family and friends; has trouble sleeping or sleeps too much; has trouble concentrating; shows signs of fatigue, nervousness, hopelessness, or anxiety; or cries frequently.

If you or your child is having a hard time adjusting to life with diabetes, counseling may help. Even after you and your child are comfortable managing diabetes, you may still have rough days. Family, friends, and support groups can help.

Remember, diabetes does not have to stop your child from living a full and healthy life.

What to Do

  • Work with your healthcare team to set realistic goals to help you manage your child's diabetes.

  • Give insulin as prescribed, even if your child is ill.

  • Keep diabetes supplies with you and your child at all times.

  • Learn to safely dispose of needles, syringes, and diabetes testing equipment.

  • Check with your pharmacist or healthcare provider before giving your child over-the-counter medication.

  • Have your child vaccinated for influenza and pneumonia.

  • Have your child wear identification that says he or she has diabetes.

When to Call Your Healthcare Provider

You should call your healthcare provider:

  • If your child has a fever or signs of an infection.

  • If your child has nausea and vomiting, and cannot keep down liquids or solid foods.

  • If you see symptoms of ketoacidosis.

  • If your child has high or low blood glucose readings that you cannot explain.

  • If you cannot afford your child's diabetes medication and equipment.

  • Or if your child is depressed about diabetes.

What We Have Learned

Type 1 diabetes occurs when cells in the pancreas stop making insulin.
True or False
The answer is True.

You can help your child maintain healthy blood glucose levels by balancing food intake, activity levels, and insulin injections.
True or False
The answer is True.

Managing blood glucose is the best way to help decrease your child's risk for diabetes complications in the future.
True or False
The answer is True.