Updated 02 February 2017

Diagnosis and treatment of type 1 diabetes in kids

Few children have type 2 diabetes, so this article will be concentrating on type 1 diabetes management.

Having said this, it must be added that type 2 diabetes is on the rise amongst adolescents as a result of the growing tendency to have a sedentary lifestyle and an unhealthy diet. It is, however, rare amongst young children.

Symptoms of diabetes

Diagnosing type 1 diabetes in children is usually the culmination of a fairly traumatic sequence of events, as the onset is quick and often ends in a diabetic coma. Other signs are frequent urination, the drinking of large quantities of water, sweating and a fast heartbeat. Fatigue, weight loss, as well as an increased appetite could also be signs.

In type 2 diabetes, the treatment centres on the control of blood sugar through nutritional intake, exercise and sometimes medication. type 1 diabetics require daily doses of insulin.

Equipment for testing

Equipment needed for daily blood glucose testing and insulin injections include a glucose meter, a lancing device, glucose meter strips a pricker, insulin, insulin syringes, alcohol and cotton. These can all look rather foreboding to a young child, but generally they quickly adapt.

Blood glucose levels

The blood glucose level is the amount of sugar in the blood. This is expressed as millimoles per litre (mmol/l). Blood glucose levels in non-diabetics often stay within reasonably close limits during the day, but they increase after meals and are often low in the mornings.

Blood glucose levels in diabetics should ideally be between 4 and 7 mmol/l before a meal, less than 10 mmol/l 90 minutes after a meal and about 8 mmol/l around bedtime. Blood glucose levels always rise after meals, and can dip severely when meals are skipped. Every person’s ideal blood glucose levels can be different, and should be determined in conjunction with the GP.

Testing should be done at an absolute minimum of once a day for Type 1 diabetics, and once a week do a 24 hour profile – which means testing before every meal and before bed. The frequency of testing is not a decision the diabetic child or the parent should make. This should be done under strict medical supervision and what the doctor suggests, should be adhered to.

The right type of exercise is important as is a diet low in fat and almost lacking in sugar. This can be difficult as children like sweet things and there are often ‘hidden’sugars and fats in many prepackaged foods. Speak to a counsellor and a dietician. - (Health24, updated Feburary 2010)


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Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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