Diabetes in Children: Preventing High Blood Sugar
What is an Actionset?
High blood sugar, also called hyperglycemia, occurs when the sugar (glucose) level in the blood rises above normal. For a person who has diabetes, high blood sugar may be caused by missed oral diabetes medicine or insulin injection, eating too much, skipping physical activity, or illness or stress. The rapid growth during the teen years can also make it harder to keep your child's blood sugar levels within a target range.
Unlike low blood sugar, high blood sugar usually develops slowly over a period of hours or days. But it can also develop quickly (in just a few hours) if you eat a large meal or miss an insulin dose. Blood sugar levels just above the target range may make a person feel tired and thirsty. If your child's blood sugar level stays higher than normal, his or her body will adjust to that level. Over time, high blood sugar damages the eyes, heart, kidneys, blood vessels, and nerves. If your child's blood sugar continues to rise, his or her kidneys will increase the amount of urine produced and your child can become dehydrated. If your child becomes severely dehydrated, he or she can go into a coma and possibly die.
Unless you or your child fails to notice the symptoms, you usually have time to treat high blood sugar so that it doesn't become an emergency situation. Three steps can help you prevent high blood sugar problems:
More information about diabetes in children can be found in these topics:
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High blood sugar
High blood sugar means that the level of sugar (glucose) in your child's blood is above a target range. Your child may feel tired and thirsty when his or her blood sugar is well above a target range. But some people adjust to elevated levels of sugar in their blood and may not have obvious symptoms of high blood sugar until their blood sugar levels are very high.
Symptoms of high blood sugar usually develop gradually over a period of hours to days. But it can also develop quickly (in just a few hours) if you eat a large meal or miss an insulin dose. Unless you and your child fail to notice the symptoms, you usually have time to get early treatment. An emergency occurs when high blood sugar levels lead to severe dehydration and interfere with the chemical processes of the body (metabolism).
What causes high blood sugar?
High blood sugar develops when there is too little insulin or when your child's body fails to respond properly to the insulin in the bloodstream. High blood sugar emergencies often develop because of an infection or surgery, which increase the need for insulin.
Blood sugar levels can rise above a target range when your child:
Your child sometimes may have very high blood sugar levels in the morning before breakfast. This may be due to the dawn phenomenon or the Somogyi effect.
Test Your Knowledge
Answer the following questions to see whether you understand what high blood sugar is.
High blood sugar means that the amount of sugar in my child's blood is above his or her target range.
Symptoms of high blood sugar include hunger, nervousness, and sweating.
A high blood sugar emergency occurs when the blood sugar level rises high enough to lead to severe dehydration and changes in metabolism.
Blood sugar levels that are somewhat above a target range may cause symptoms, such as increased thirst and more frequent urination. If early high blood sugar is not treated, it may rise to a very high level, which can be life-threatening. Over time, high blood sugar can also increase the risk for complications, such as problems with your nerves, eyes, or kidneys.
When your child's blood sugar level rises above 200 mg/dL, his or her kidneys will eliminate some of the extra sugar through the urine. Along with sugar, the kidneys release large amounts of fluid, which causes increased urination.
If your child's blood sugar level continues to rise and liquids that are lost aren't replaced, your child can become dehydrated. Dehydration can lead to a high blood sugar emergency. Both of the following high blood sugar emergencies can become life-threatening:
Often, a high blood sugar emergency can develop because of stress to your body, such as an infection or surgery, which increases the need for insulin.
Test Your Knowledge
Answer the following question to see how well you understand what a high blood sugar emergency is.
A high blood sugar emergency can occur if my child's blood sugar level continues to rise above 240 mg/dL.
The best ways to prevent a high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) emergency are to check blood sugar levels often, be prepared for emergencies, treat high blood sugar promptly, treat infections right away, and make sure your child gets plenty of sugar-free liquids.
Treat infections early
Untreated infections, such as urinary tract infections and skin infections, can increase your child's risk of a high blood sugar emergency.
Treat high blood sugar early
The best way to prevent high blood sugar emergencies is to treat high blood sugar as soon as your child has symptoms or when his or her blood sugar is significantly above the target range (200 mg/dL or higher).
Offer plenty of liquids
If your child's blood sugar levels are above his or her target range, offer extra liquids to replace the fluids lost through the kidneys. Water and sugar-free drinks are best. Avoid caffeinated drinks, regular soda pop, fruit juice, and other liquids that contain a lot of sugar.
Test Your Knowledge
Answer the following question to see how well you understand how to prevent high blood sugar emergencies.
If my child has symptoms of mild high blood sugar, I should:
Follow the steps for dealing with high blood sugar.
Give my child an extra dose of oral diabetes medicine.
Now that you have read this information, you are ready to start preventing high blood sugar emergencies.
Talk with your child's doctor
If you have not talked with your child's doctor about a target blood sugar range and how to deal with high blood sugar levels, do so. Treating high blood sugar early can prevent an emergency and also prevent damage to your child's eyes, kidneys, heart, blood vessels, and nerves.
If you would like more information about diabetes, the following resources are available:
Medical identification jewelry can be purchased at most pharmacies. Talk with your doctor or contact the local American Diabetes Association about other places to purchase medical identification in your area.
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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