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Diabetes in Children: Checking Blood Sugar in a Child

What is an Actionset?

Your child needs to know when his or her blood sugar level is outside the target range. Fortunately, your child's blood sugar level can be checked anywhere and anytime by using a home blood sugar (glucose) meter. Blood sugar meters give results in less than a minute.

Knowing your child's blood sugar level helps you treat low or high blood sugar before it becomes an emergency. It also helps you know how exercise and food affect your child's blood sugar and how much short-acting insulin to give (if your child takes insulin).

Five keys to success in monitoring your child's blood sugar are:

  • Keeping the meter and supplies with your child at all times.
  • Making it a habit to check your child's blood sugar level by building it into his or her routine.
  • Pricking the sides of your child's fingers, not the tips. The tip of a finger is more sensitive than the sides.
  • Checking the meter's accuracy when you visit the doctor by comparing results with the doctor's results.
  • Keeping the meter properly maintained and calibrated with the test strips.

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Home blood sugar monitoring is checking your child's blood sugar level using a home blood sugar meter. This is often referred to as self-testing. Children's blood sugar may need testing more often when they are first diagnosed with diabetes, when diabetes medicines are changed, when your child is starting a new sport, or when your child is sick. Children who take insulin may need to check blood sugar levels several times a day. If your child does not take insulin and his or her blood sugar levels are within a target range, he or she may need to test only before breakfast each day and sometimes at other times of the day.

To test your child's blood sugar level, prick the side of a finger with a small needle (lancet) to collect a drop of blood. Place the drop of blood on the test strip inserted into the meter. For some meters, the test strip is put into the meter after the blood is applied. Within a minute or less, the meter shows the results of the test.

Test Your Knowledge

Answer the following question to see whether you understand what home blood sugar monitoring is.

Home blood sugar monitoring involves:

Testing the amount of sugar in a sample of blood drawn from a blood vein.
Testing the amount of sugar in a drop of blood from a finger.

Testing your child's blood sugar at home will help you know:

  • When your child's blood sugar is low. Low blood sugar can lead to an emergency situation. If your child's blood sugar drops just below the target range and he or she quickly eats something containing sugar, the blood sugar will rise and may prevent an emergency.
  • When your child's blood sugar is high. Over time, high blood sugar levels cause permanent damage to the eyes, heart, kidneys, blood vessels, and nerves. Having diabetes at a young age increases your child's risk for these complications during young adulthood. Keeping blood sugar levels within a target range decreases the risk of complications.
  • What your child's blood sugar level is before a meal. If your child takes short-acting insulin, you can use these blood-sugar results to determine how much insulin to give.
  • How exercise affects your child's blood sugar. Exercise usually lowers blood sugar levels.
  • What your child's blood sugar is when he or she is sick. Severe illness or stress usually causes higher-than-normal blood sugar levels.
  • When your child's medicine for diabetes may need to be adjusted. A child's insulin needs will change as the child grows. If your child's blood sugar levels remain high over a period of time or your child has frequent low blood sugar, his or her medicine may need to be adjusted. Talk with your doctor about this.

Test Your Knowledge

Answer the following question to see whether you understand why you need to monitor your child's blood sugar at home.

Home blood sugar monitoring helps you know how exercise has affected your child's blood sugar.


Here is a simple way to get started monitoring your child's blood sugar at home. Use these same steps to help your child learn this task.

Get organized

Before you start testing your child's blood sugar:

  • Talk with the doctor about how often and when you should test your child's blood sugar. Use the Blood Sugar Testing Times FormClick here to view a form.(What is a PDF document?) to record this information.
  • Link testing your child's blood sugar with other daily activities, such as preparing for breakfast. This will help your child build the habit of self-testing.
  • Use the list of supplies to gather the things you need to test your child's blood sugar. Keep the supplies together so that a test can be done quickly if needed.
  • Check your equipment before each test.
    • Check the expiration date on the testing strips. If you use test strips after the expiration date on the bottle, you may not get accurate results.
    • Many meters don't need a code from the test strips, but some will. If your meter does, make sure the code numbers on the testing strips bottle match the numbers on the blood sugar meter. If the numbers do not match, follow the directions that come with the meter for changing the code numbers.
  • Use the sugar control solution that is made by your meter's manufacturer when you use a meter for the first time, when you open a new bottle of test strips, or when you check the accuracy of your meter's results. Follow the directions that came with your meter for using the control solution properly.
  • At regular intervals, check the equipment. Put a copy of the care of blood sugar supplies with your child's bag or kit to remind you.

Do the test

When you test your child's blood sugar, you will know more about how well his or her treatment is keeping blood sugar within a target range.

Follow these steps when you test your child's blood sugar:

  1. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water and dry them well with a clean towel. Have your child wash and dry his or her hands, also.
  2. Put a clean needle (lancet) in the pen-sized lancet device. It holds and positions the lancet and controls how deeply the lancet goes into the skin.
  3. Take a test strip from the bottle. Put the lid back on the bottle immediately to prevent moisture from affecting the other strips.
  4. Prepare the blood sugar meter. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for your specific meter.
  5. Stick the side of your child's fingertip with the lancet.
  6. Put a drop of blood on the correct spot on the test strip, covering the test area well.
  7. Using a clean cotton ball, apply pressure to the place where you stuck your child's finger. This will stop the bleeding.
  8. Wait for the results. Most meters take only a few seconds to give you the results.

Record the results

Recording your child's blood sugar results is very important. The doctor will use your child's record to see how often blood sugar levels have been in a target range and to determine if your child's insulin dose or other diabetes medicine needs to be adjusted. This information lets you and your doctor know how your child's medicine, food, and activity are affecting your child's blood sugar. Be sure to take your child's record with you on each visit to the doctor or diabetes educator.

To record your child's results, you can:

  • Get printed blood sugar logs from companies that make diabetes medicines and supplies. Or use a home blood sugar diaryClick here to view a form.(What is a PDF document?).
  • Make a blood sugar log in a notebook. You can record other information in the log or notebook, such as insulin doses, physical activity, and what your child has eaten.
  • Use a meter that stores the results. Many blood sugar meters can save from 10 to more than 100 blood sugar results. Some are able to calculate the average blood sugar for a period of time, such as over a day or a week. Also, many meter manufacturers make computer programs that can use the stored results to show patterns in your child's blood sugar levels.
  • Many blood sugar meters connect over the Internet to sites that organize and store the blood sugar results.

Preventing sore fingers

The more often your child's blood sugar is tested, the more likely it is your child will have sore fingertips. Here are some suggestions to help reduce this pain.

  • Don't prick the tip of your child's finger. If you do, the prick will be more painful, and you may not get enough blood to do the test accurately. Always prick the side of the fingertip.
  • Don't squeeze your child's fingertip. If you have trouble getting a drop of blood large enough to cover the test area of the strip, hang your child's hand down below his or her waist and count to 5. Then squeeze your child's finger beginning closest to his or her hand and moving outward to the end of the finger.
  • Use a different finger each time. Establish a pattern for which finger you stick so that you won't use some fingers more than others. If a finger becomes sore, avoid using it for testing for a few days.
  • Use a different device. Some blood sugar meters use lancet devices that can get a blood sample from sites other than the fingers, such as the forearm.
  • Don't reuse lancets. They get dull and cause pain.

Test Your Knowledge

Answer the following question to see whether you understand how to monitor your child's blood sugar at home.

To test your child's blood sugar, you need to put a drop of blood on the special test strip used with the home blood sugar meter.


Now that you have read this information, you are ready to start monitoring your child's blood sugar levels at home.

Talk with your child's doctor

If you have questions about this information, take it with you when you visit your child's doctor. You may want to mark areas or make notes in the margins where you have questions.

If you haven't talked with the doctor about when and how often to test your child's blood sugar, do so during your next visit. Use the blood sugar testing timesClick here to view a form.(What is a PDF document?) form to record the times you need to check your child's blood sugar each day and when he or she is ill.

Computerized records

Many blood sugar meter manufacturers offer computer software programs that compile and analyze blood sugar test results on your home computer. You can print out the results and take them along when you visit your child's doctor. Some programs allow you to send the information to the doctor electronically.


American Diabetes Association (ADA)
1701 North Beauregard Street
Alexandria, VA 22311
Phone: 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383)
Email: [email protected]
Web Address:

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) is a national organization for health professionals and consumers. Almost every state has a local office. ADA sets the standards for the care of people with diabetes. Its focus is on research for the prevention and treatment of all types of diabetes. ADA provides patient and professional education mainly through its publications, which include the monthly magazine Diabetes Forecast, books, brochures, cookbooks and meal planning guides, and pamphlets. ADA also provides information for parents about caring for a child with diabetes.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical ReviewerStephen LaFranchi, MD - Pediatrics, Pediatric Endocrinology
Last RevisedDecember 4, 2012

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