Balancing blood sugar levels for a child with type 1 diabetes

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Although there is no cure for diabetes, the condition can be effectively managed. Learn how to properly test and manage blood sugar levels.

Key points

  • To effectively manage your child's blood sugar levels, you will need to learn how to measure them and how often to do so.
  • Taking the correct amount of insulin required, maintaining a healthy diet, and getting enough exercise are the best ways to manage diabetes.

The key to managing diabetes is balancing blood sugar levels. There are several ways to control and manage blood sugar, starting with how to measure blood sugar levels.

Although there is no cure for diabetes, the condition can be effectively managed. The first step is to learn the skills needed to take care of diabetes:

Achieving optimal blood sugar control

There are two goals of treatment for diabetes.

  1. Establish and maintain target blood sugar levels so your child feels well, stays healthy and avoids complications.
  2. Help your child adjust well to living with diabetes.

Around the world, the basic treatment of type 1 diabetes is the same. It consists of:

  • monitoring blood sugar levels several times a day to make sure they are within a normal range
  • taking insulin injections several times a day or using a pump to deliver a steady amount of insulin with extra doses at mealtimes
  • following a meal plan and monitoring intake of carbohydrates (which is broken down into sugar).

Within this basic framework, different healthcare teams will work with your family to develop a plan that fits in with your child’s specific needs and your family’s routines at home.

You will be asked to bring your child in to the clinic for regular check-ups every three months. During these clinic visits, you can discuss any concerns you have with the diabetes care team. It is important to remember that as your child grows and develops, diabetes routines will also change. Diabetes education is an ongoing process for you and your child.

Food and diet

Healthy eating is important for all children for normal growth and development, and a child with diabetes is no exception.

Along with blood sugar checking and insulin injections, healthy eating plays a very important part in diabetes care. The care plan relies on regular mealtimes and snack times and consistent amounts of food. This routine can be individualized to your child’s needs and their insulin routine with help from your dietitian. Flexibility with the amounts of food and number of snacks in a day can be incorporated, depending on your child's insulin therapy.

The registered dietitian is experienced in nutrition planning for children and teenagers. The registered dietitian is a key member of your diabetes team. Food diaries help the dietitian determine what your child eats and fitting the dietary management into your daily routine.

Physical exercise

Physical activity is a vital part of diabetes management. Regular physical activity can help control blood sugar levels and keeps the body healthy.

Exercise is perfectly safe for patients with diabetes. Because physical activity affects blood sugar levels (more sugar is used for energy), extra blood sugar checks and sometimes extra carbohydrates​ and food are required. Having diabetes does not and should not limit a child’s participation in active play and sports.

Screen time

Minimizing the amount of screen time will help manage your child’s diabetes.

The 2009–2011 Canadian Health Measures Survey from Statistics Canada showed that Canadian kids:

  • aged three to four years spend 5.8 hours a day being sedentary
  • aged five to 11 years spend 7.6 hours being sedentary
  • aged 12 to 17 years spend 9.3 hours a day being sedentary.

A healthy lifestyle requires minimizing recreational screen time and sedentary time.

Sedentary behaviour is defined as little physical movement and low energy expenditure such as watching television, playing video games and prolonged sitting.

Recreational screen time is defined as watching television, playing video games and using the computer or mobile devices, not during school hours, while being sedentary. Please check the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines​ for the age appropriate recommendations.

AgeScreen time recommendations
Under 2 years oldNo screen time
2 to 4 years oldLess than 1 hour per day (but less is better)
5 to 17 years oldLess than 2 hours per day
Last updated: October 17th 2016