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Type 1 Diabetes in Children: Care Instructions


Type 1 diabetes is a disease that develops when the body cannot make enough insulin. Insulin helps sugar (also called glucose) enter the body's cells to be used for energy. Without insulin, sugar and acids called ketones build up in the blood. Over time, high blood sugar can cause serious problems. These include diseases of the heart, large blood vessels, eyes, nerves, and kidneys. Very high blood sugar and ketones can be life-threatening.

Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong condition. To live a healthy life, your child needs insulin regularly throughout the day and night. Your diabetes care team will help you and your child manage diabetes well.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Have your child always wear a medical bracelet or necklace so medical personnel can give the right care. You can buy these at most drugstores and online.
  • Follow your child's treatment plan for diabetes. Help your child to:
    • Take insulin as directed.
    • Eat healthy foods and follow their meal plan to know how much carbohydrate they need for meals and snacks.
    • Be active each day. Your child may like to take a walk with you, ride a bike, or play sports.
    • Check and record your child's blood sugar several times a day. Your child's doctor or diabetes educator will tell you when the levels should be checked. As your child grows older, you can teach them to take on more and more of this responsibility.
    • Track any symptoms of low blood sugar your child has, and know how to treat it. For example, keep glucose tablets or other quick-sugar foods and a glucagon emergency kit with your child.
    • Track any changes in your child's activities, diet, or insulin use.
  • Work with your child's doctor to write up a sick-day plan for what to do on days when your child is sick. Your child's blood sugar can go up or down, depending on the illness and if your child can keep food down. Call the doctor when your child is sick to see if you need to adjust your child's insulin.

Create and find support

  • Show your child how to talk about feelings. Teach your child to talk to family, friends, a doctor, or a counsellor when feeling afraid, sad, angry, or even guilty about having diabetes.
  • Consider a summer camp for children who have diabetes. It can help children learn about their disease and about how to manage it. It also introduces them to other children who have type 1 diabetes.
  • Join a support group for parents of children with diabetes. Local groups are available in most areas.
  • Ask your child's treatment team for support when you need it. Call your doctor or nurse advice line or other diabetes expert if you have questions or concerns about your child's care.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has passed out (lost consciousness).
  • Your child is confused or cannot think clearly.
  • Your child's blood sugar is very high or very low.

Your diabetes care team will help you and your child manage diabetes well. Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child's blood sugar stays outside the level your doctor set.
  • Your child has any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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