Pediatric Diabetes Care Tips for Parents

August 29,2023 |

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly 283,000 children and adolescents younger than 20 years old have been diagnosed with diabetes. Although exact numbers for individuals 14 years old and younger are not well recorded, the average onset of type 1 diabetes tends to peak between the ages of 4 and 7 years old and again in children between 10 and 14 years old. Type 2 diabetes in children is rare, but it can occur. To help you better understand this chronic condition, here are some essential pediatric diabetes care tips for parents.

What to Know About Diabetes in Children

The two primary types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2 diabetes. While type 1 diabetes tends to manifest during childhood, it can appear at any age—even in adulthood. Alternatively, type 2 diabetes tends to manifest during adulthood, but due to the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity, it’s becoming more common among younger individuals. Diabetes is a chronic condition with no current cure.

Type 1 Diabetes in Children

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to attack the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Eventually, this causes the body to stop producing insulin altogether. However, insulin is an essential hormone that’s responsible for keeping blood sugar levels stable by removing the glucose from the blood and moving it into the body’s cells. When left untreated, this can cause various complications, making diabetes treatment and management essential.

Symptoms of type 1 diabetes in children include the following:

  • Frequent urination, which may manifest as bedwetting
  • Increased levels of thirst
  • Dehydration
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Behavior changes
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fruit-smelling breath

These symptoms may occur quickly or seemingly out of nowhere. See your child's pediatrician immediately if you notice any of the above symptoms or any other unusual changes.

Type 2 Diabetes in Children

Type 2 diabetes is a condition that occurs when your body develops a resistance to insulin or does not make enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels stable. It’s often linked to genetics, lifestyle habits, and obesity. Although type 2 diabetes is less common in children, increasing rates of childhood obesity have caused more cases of the condition in younger individuals. Symptoms of type 2 diabetes tend to occur more gradually than type 1 diabetes and may also indicate prediabetes. If prediabetes is diagnosed, type 2 diabetes may still be prevented or delayed with lifestyle changes.

Some symptoms of type 2 diabetes to look out for include the following:

  • Increased levels of thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Unintentional weight loss (though not as common as children with type 1 diabetes)
  • Blurry vision
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Darkened areas of the skin (i.e., around the neck, armpits, groin)
  • Frequent infections

If your child shows signs of type 2 diabetes or any behavioral changes, see your doctor as soon as possible. Doing so can increase the likelihood of reversing prediabetes and the risk of type 2 diabetes development.

What Causes Pediatric Diabetes?

Unfortunately, the exact cause of type 1 diabetes in children is unknown. However, there are a few risk factors to be aware of. The biggest risk factor is family history and genetics. If you have type 1 diabetes, your child’s risk increases. Certain genes may also be responsible for the onset of type 1 diabetes in addition to the exposure to viruses that trigger an autoimmune response (i.e., enteroviruses).

Although type 2 diabetes is generally related to lifestyle habits, the exact cause still remains unknown. However, there seems to be a relationship between type 2 diabetes and how children process sugar. The biggest risk factors include being overweight, having an inactive lifestyle, and eating too many processed foods. Family history, genetics, and age also come into play. Additionally, children whose mothers experienced gestational diabetes during pregnancy are at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes in children is also commonly associated with metabolic syndrome and polycystic ovarian syndrome.

Pediatric Diabetes Care Tips for Parents

The effect of diabetes on your body is far-reaching and can impact nearly every organ. The longer someone lives with diabetes, the greater the risk of complications. This is why it’s so important for parents to utilize pediatric diabetes care and management from an early age. Treatment varies slightly depending on the type of diabetes your child is diagnosed with, so always talk to your doctor for specifics.

Find a Good Pediatric Diabetes Doctor

If your child is diagnosed with diabetes, finding a good diabetes doctor should be one of the first things you do. This will help you ensure your child’s condition is managed effectively. The key is finding someone whom both you and your child feel comfortable with, as you’ll likely keep the same diabetes team for several years. You’ll also likely work with an endocrinologist, dietician, optometrist, and other doctors in different specialties to help ensure your child stays healthy and that any complications are addressed early.

Spend Some Time Researching Diabetes

It’s also important to get educated on the different types of pediatric diabetes and how they affect your child. Although this article covered some of the basics, try to learn as much as you can about the type of diabetes your child has. This can help you gain a better sense of control and understanding, which is extremely helpful for ongoing management.

Understand the Treatment Options

Treatment for diabetes in children depends on the type they’re diagnosed with. Type 1 diabetes requires that your child takes insulin regularly to manage blood sugar levels. There are also several different types of insulin, each with different effects. Some options include rapid-acting insulin, short-acting insulin, intermediate-acting insulin, and long- or ultra-long-acting insulin. All have unique advantages, so talk to your child’s diabetes team to better understand when to use them or how much to administer. You’ll also need to regularly check their blood sugar and try to keep it within a certain range. Additional options for managing type 1 diabetes in children include a healthy, nutritious diet and plenty of exercise. 

Type 2 diabetes treatment in children is a little different. Not all individuals with type 2 diabetes need to take insulin. Sometimes, the condition can be managed by diet, exercise, and weight loss alone. However, it’s still important that you follow any and all directions provided by your child’s doctor. Usually, this involves monitoring blood sugar levels and administering insulin or other diabetes medications as needed.

Plan Healthy Meals

One big diabetes misconception is that individuals who are diagnosed need to follow a strict diabetes diet. Although healthy eating is one of the pillars of any successful diabetes management plan, you don’t need to completely restrict your child. The key is enjoying things in moderation and being conscious about what they’re eating. Try to focus on whole foods and minimally processed items or consider using the glycemic index. If you struggle to find a meal plan your child enjoys, talk to your doctor or diabetes dietician.

Be Patient and Empathetic

Finally, try to be patient with your child and empathetic about their situation. Being around children who don’t have any dietary restrictions can be difficult, especially when they’re at school, their friends’ houses, or at a birthday party. Try to explain the situation in terms that they can understand and, as they get older, provide them with more details regarding their situation. If you need help with this process, consider working with a professional.

Pediatric diabetes can be a difficult diagnosis, but with the proper management and care, your child can live a long, healthy life. The most important thing is to help your child with the mental, emotional, and physical challenges that can be associated with living with diabetes as best as you can. The best way to do this is to promote nutritious eating habits within your family, live an active lifestyle, and be a positive role model for all-around healthy habits. You may also want to work with a mental health professional who is experienced with diabetes distress and diabetes care to help your child process the condition as they get older.


To help you manage your child’s diabetes with ease and reduce the risk of long-term complications, Byram Healthcare has a range of diabetes management products, including our Caring Touch at Home™ Program. Browse our product catalog today and get your diabetes supplies delivered directly to your door.