Managing Your Child's Diabetes on Sick Days

Managing Your Child's Diabetes on Sick Days

How Illness Affects Blood Sugar Levels

Kids with diabetes get sick once in a while, just like other kids. However, because the effects of illness on the body can raise or lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, a few extra precautions are needed to keep blood sugar levels under control.

With proper planning and some advice from your doctor, you'll be prepared to handle sick days with confidence.

When your child gets sick — whether it's a minor illness like a sore throat or cold or a bigger problem like dehydration or surgery — the body perceives the illness as stress. To relieve the stress, the body fights the illness. This process requires more energy than the body normally uses.

On one hand, this is good because it helps supply the extra fuel the body needs. On the other hand, in a person with diabetes, this can lead to high blood sugar levels. While stress tends to make blood sugar rise in people with diabetes, some illnesses cause loss of appetite, nausea, or vomiting. The poor intake of food in such cases can result in low blood sugar levels in someone taking the usual doses of insulin.

In a nutshell: Blood sugar levels can be very unpredictable on sick days. Because you can't be sure exactly how the illness will affect your child's diabetes control, it's important to check your child's blood sugar levels often on sick days and adjust insulin doses as needed.

Advance Preparation

Your child's diabetes health care team will include sick-day instructions in the diabetes management plan, which might include:

In addition, kids with diabetes should get the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV), which protects against some serious infections, including certain types of pneumonia, blood infections, and bacterial meningitis. Kids with diabetes should also get a flu shot every year. These vaccines may help cut down on sick days.

When Your Child Is Sick

While your doctor will give you specific advice about what to do when your child is sick, here are some general guidelines:

When to Call the Doctor

Your child's diabetes management plan will include specific guidelines to help you recognize when medical help is required and recommend what actions to take and whom to call.

Generally, though, call your doctor if your child is sick and:

Whenever you have questions or concerns, check in with your doctor. Together, you can make sure that your child feels well again soon.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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Related Resources
OrganizationNational Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases This group conducts and supports research on many serious diseases affecting public health.
OrganizationAmerican Diabetes Association (ADA) The ADA website includes news, information, tips, and recipes for people with diabetes.
Web SiteChildren With Diabetes This website offers true stories about kids and teens who have diabetes.
Web SiteJoslin Diabetes Center The website of this Boston-based center has information about how to monitor blood sugar and manage diabetes.
OrganizationJuvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF) JDRF's mission is to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research.
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