What should a child or teen with diabetes do every day? To control diabetes and prevent complications, blood glucose levels must be as close to a "normal" range as safely possible. Families should work with a health care provider to help set a child's or teen's targets for blood glucose levels. The provider can help develop a personal diabetes plan for the child and discuss ways to manage hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) and hyperglycemia (high blood glucose).

A Personal Diabetes Plan

A personal diabetes plan ensures that a daily schedule is in place to keep a child's diabetes under control. A health care provider develops this plan in partnership with a child or teen and his or her family. The plan shows the child or teen how to follow a healthy meal plan, get regular physical activity, check blood glucose levels, and take insulin or oral medication as prescribed.

Follow A Healthy Meal Plan

A child or teen needs to follow a meal plan developed by a physician, diabetes educator, or a registered dietitian. A meal plan outlines proper nutrition for growth. A meal plan also helps keep blood glucose levels in the target range. Children or adolescents and their families can learn how different types of food, especially carbohydrates such as breads, pasta, and rice, can affect blood glucose levels. Portion size, the right amount of calories for the child's age, and ideas for healthy food choices at meal and snack time also should be discussed. Family support for following the meal plan and setting up regular meal times is a key to success, especially if the child or teen is taking insulin.

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Get Regular Physical Activity

A child or teen with diabetes needs regular physical activity. Exercise helps to lower blood glucose levels, especially in children and adolescents with type 2 diabetes. Exercise is also a good way to help children control their weight. If possible, a child or teen should check blood glucose levels before beginning a game or sport. A child or teen should not exercise if blood glucose levels are too low.

Check Blood Glucose Levels Regularly

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A child or teen should check blood glucose levels regularly with a blood glucose meter, preferably a meter with a built-in memory. A health care professional can teach a child how to use a blood glucose meter properly and how often to use it. Blood glucose meter results show if blood glucose levels are in the target range, too high, or too low. A child should keep a journal or other records of blood glucose results to discuss with his or her health care provider. This information helps the provider make any needed changes to the child's or teen's personal diabetes plan.

Take All Diabetes Medication As Prescribed

A child or teen should take all diabetes medication as prescribed. Parents, caregivers, school nurses, and others can help a child or teen learn how to take medications properly. For type 1 diabetes, a child or teen takes insulin shots at regular times each day. Some children and teens use an insulin pump, which delivers insulin. Some children or teens with type 2 diabetes need oral medication or insulin shots or both. In any case, all medication should be balanced with food and activity every day.

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Hypoglycemia And Hyperglycemia

Keeping blood glucose levels within the target range is the goal of diabetes control. However, extremes in blood glucose levels can occur for several reasons. The parent or caregiver should talk with a health care provider about how to deal with these potential problems related to a child's or teen's diabetes.

Blood glucose levels can sometimes drop too low - a condition called hypoglycemia. Taking too much diabetes medicine, missing a meal or snack, or exercising too much may cause hypoglycemia. A child or teen can become nervous, shaky, and confused. When blood glucose levels fall very low, the person can lose consciousness or develop seizures. Talk to the child's or teen's health care provider about how to deal with this serious but manageable condition.