Whenever you are caring for a young child, it is important to be aware of their blood sugar levels and when to worry about them. Blood glucose levels can give you an indication of how your child is doing overall and whether they are healthy or not. In fact, keeping track of the signs is one of the most important jobs of being a parent or childcare provider.
In some cases, however, it’s harder to tell when a child’s blood sugar is off balance because they can’t always communicate how they’re feeling. Knowing when to worry about blood sugar levels in children can help keep them healthy and safe. In this article, we discuss what blood sugar levels mean in children, what to do if they are too high or too low, and when to seek medical attention.
What are the Main Causes of Diabetes in Children and Adolescents?
In Australia, Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service identified Type 1 diabetes as the most common form of disease affecting children and adolescents.
How Does a Child Get Type 1 Diabetes if There is No Family History?
Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) is an autoimmune disease that develops when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. This results in a severe deficiency of insulin, which leads to increased blood sugar levels also known as hyperglycaemia.
The causes are unknown but are believed to have a connection with genetics and environmental factors like viruses that trigger disease development. It is a lifelong condition and currently has no cure.
Is it Inevitable That I Get Type 2 Diabetes if it Runs in My Family?
Meanwhile, Type 2 diabetes can have several origins. It can be social, behavioral, or environmental risk factors that can precipitate the effects of genetic susceptibility. Predisposing factors leading to increased risk of Type 2 diabetes among kids and teens are:
Overweight or obesity
Type 2 diabetes is more common in obese children. A child’s weight is a major risk factor. In fact, 85% of children with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese.
Two of my grandfathers died because of diabetes. Am I at risk? If a parent or grandparent has type 2 diabetes, a child’s risk for the disease is increased.
Certain ethnic groups
African Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than other groups.
Common Diabetes Signs and Symptoms in Children
Keep in mind that symptoms can be present for a long time or appear suddenly. Do a careful assessment and monitor the following:
- Increased thirst
- Increased urination
- Weight loss despite increased appetite
- Blurred vision
- Slow healing of cuts and bruises
- Frequent infections e.g. skin or gum infections and vaginal yeast infections in girls
If your child or adolescent has any of these signs or symptoms, talk to your doctor in Southport QLD. He or she may need to be tested for diabetes.
What is Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)?
Diabetic Ketoacidosis is a life-threatening complication that most often occurs in Type 1 diabetic patients and is more common in children than adults. This happens when there is not enough insulin in the body and the body starts to break down fat for energy. This process produces ketones, which are acids that build up in the blood and urine. If left untreated, DKA can lead to diabetic coma or even death.
Symptoms of DKA in Children
If your child has Type 1 diabetes and experiences symptoms that include:
- Tummy ache
- Deep breathing
Provide emergency care if necessary or take your kid immediately to the nearest hospital for a thorough check by a medical professional.
Monitoring Your Child’s Blood Glucose Levels
Some parents are understandably hesitant to have their children prick their fingers to check their blood glucose levels, but it is a worthwhile practice that can help keep them healthy. Accurate monitoring will help you and your child’s doctor better understand how diabetes is affecting your child’s body and adjust treatment as needed.
Blood Sugar Levels for Australian Kids and Teens
Normal blood glucose levels for a person without diabetes in Southport Queensland generally range from 4.0 to 7.8 mmol/L.
For a person with diabetes, the target blood glucose levels may vary, it’s different from child to child. Below is a general guide of target blood glucose levels before meals and after eating shared by Diabetes Queensland.
Type 1 Diabetes
Before meals – 4 to 6 mmol/L
2 hours starting meals – 4 to 8 mmol/L
Type 2 Diabetes
Before meals – 6 to 8 mmol/L
2 hours after starting meals: 6 to 10 mmol/L
What Do I Use to Check Blood Sugar?
There are a number of ways to monitor blood glucose levels. Consult with your doctor about what is best for your child. These two devices make monitoring easier for both you and your child at home and anywhere.
Blood Glucose Metre
A small and portable machine that can rapidly measure the amount of glucose in a drop of blood.
To use a blood glucose metre:
- Wash the child’s hands with soap and water. Dry them well.
- Insert the test strip into the metre.
- Use the lancing device to prick your child’s finger and draw a drop of blood.
- Touch the drop of blood to the end of the test strip.
- The metre will give you a reading in just a few seconds.
Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM)
It is a small sensor that you wear under your skin, usually on your upper arm, that is connected to a transmitter.
CGMs are used to help people with diabetes better manage their condition by providing real-time data that can be used to make informed decisions about diet, exercise, and insulin dosing. In some cases, CGMs can also be used to detect early signs of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) and alert the user so that they can take steps to treat it.
Low vs High Blood Sugar
There are two types of diabetes-related blood sugar levels in children and adolescents.
What is Hyperglycaemia?
This occurs when the child doesn’t take enough insulin or if their body can’t use insulin properly resulting in high blood sugar levels. If this happens, your child may have symptoms such as feeling very thirsty, needing to urinate often, feeling tired, or having trouble breathing.
How to Do First Aid to Pediatric Patients with Hyperglycaemia?
Untreated high blood sugar can be fatal. When giving first aid to a child with hyperglycaemia, it is crucial to keep the following in mind:
- Check blood sugar levels frequently. If they are rising, seek medical help immediately.
- Administer fluids slowly. If your child is unconscious, give small sips of water or fruit juice. Follow DRSABCD if the situation calls for it.
- Do not attempt to force your child to vomit. This can cause them to aspirate (inhale) their vomit, which can lead to pneumonia.
- If your child is having a seizure, do not try to hold them down. Turn them on their side and ensure that their airway is clear.
- Do not give your child anything to eat or drink until they are seen by a medical professional.
- If you are unsure of how to administer first aid, call 000 or take your child to the nearest emergency room.
Apart from being a qualification at the workplace in Southport QLD, anyone can be prepared to provide first aid for children and adolescents.
What is Hypoglycaemia?
In hypoglycaemia, the child takes too much insulin, doesn’t eat enough food, or is more active than usual. The blood sugar level is low or under the normal levels. Since the body needs glucose to produce energy but has less instead, your child’s symptoms would include feeling shaky, sweating, having a headache, or feeling dizzy.
A quick way to treat hypoglycaemia is to make your child eat or drink something with sugar in it such as hard candy or juice.
Where Can I Learn First Aid for Children in Queensland?
Getting first aid certified in Southport, one of our main locations in QLD, is available to all interested participants at CPR First Aid. A child first aid course in Southport will give you the much-needed confidence to handle emergency situations at home, in the workplace, or in the community. Got questions? Call us for more information.