Type 1 Diabetes and Your Child: High Blood Sugar

Girl doing homework, talking to mom.High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) happens when there is too much sugar (glucose) in the blood. Having high blood glucose often increases the chance of developing complications from diabetes. Controlling blood glucose helps prevent complications. High blood glucose can result from the following:

  • Using too little insulin

  • Using insulin that’s not stored properly or that’s past the expiration date

  • Eating too much food

  • Being sick (for example, have a cold or the flu or vomiting or diarrhea)

  • Being less active than usual

  • Being under extra stress

  • Body's response to low blood glucose

  • Hormonal changes during puberty

How to recognize high blood glucose

Your child may be thirsty and need to urinate often. Very high blood glucose may cause nausea, blurry vision, weakness, or dizziness. Help your child learn to recognize his or her symptoms of high blood glucose. Make sure your child knows to tell you about them right away. But keep in mind that sometimes there are no symptoms.

How to treat high blood glucose

Recommendations include the following:

  • Check your child’s blood glucose.

  • If blood glucose is over your child’s target range, give him or her water or sugar-free and caffeine-free drinks.

  • If blood glucose is over 250 mg/dL, check your child’s blood or urine for ketones. Ketones are the waste when the body burns fat instead of glucose for energy. The condition is called ketosis.

  • If your child’s blood glucose stays over 250mg/dL or your child has ketones, call your child's healthcare provider.

  • Follow the plan given to you by your child’s healthcare providers. This may include giving extra insulin.

If your child has ketones

A moderate to high level of ketones in your child’s blood or urine is a warning sign of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA is a medical emergency. To try to prevent DKA, you should:

  • Watch your child for symptoms of DKA. The symptoms include;

    • Nausea and vomiting

    • Stomach cramps

    • Fast breathing

    • Fruity-smelling breath

    • Blurred vision

    • Hard time paying attention or confusion 

  • Follow your child's healthcare provider's instructions for giving your child insulin.

  • Call your child's healthcare provider if your child has a high ketone level.

  • Check your child's blood glucose every few hours or more often is instructed to do so.

  • Don’t let your child exercise until ketones are back to normal.

If your child has ketones and symptoms of ketoacidosis, call 911 or take your child to the hospital emergency department.

Sick days

When your child is ill, his or her blood glucose may be higher than usual. This may be true even if he or she is not eating as much as usual. To handle this, you will develop a sick-day plan with your child’s healthcare provider. Sick day plans often include more frequent blood glucose checks, urine or blood ketone checks, and increased insulin. On sick days, keep in close contact with your child’s healthcare providers.

How to prevent high blood glucose

Make sure that:

  • Your child has the right amount of insulin and that he or she uses it on time.

  • Your child’s meals and snacks, exercise, and insulin are balanced throughout the day.

  • You follow your child's sick-day plan during an illness.

  • Insulin is stored properly and has not expired.