Type 2 Diabetes in Children: Care Instructions

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Type 2 diabetes develops when your child's body can't make enough insulin or can't use insulin very well.

Insulin is a hormone. It helps the body's cells use sugar (glucose) for energy. It also helps the body store extra sugar in muscle, fat, and liver cells. Without insulin, the sugar can't get into the cells to do its work. It stays in the blood instead. This can cause high blood sugar levels. A person has diabetes when the blood sugar stays too high too much of the time. Over time, diabetes can lead to diseases of the heart, blood vessels, nerves, kidneys, and eyes.

In the past, doctors believed that type 2 diabetes was an adult disease and that type 1 diabetes was a children's disease. Now, more and more children are getting type 2 diabetes. Children who are overweight, are not very active, or have family members with diabetes have a higher chance of getting it.

Treatment for type 2 diabetes focuses on diet and exercise. It may also include medicines. The goal is to keep blood sugar at a target level. This will help your child feel better and have more energy. It can also prevent or delay damage to the eyes, heart, kidneys, blood vessels, and nerves. If you work closely with your child's doctor, you can make a treatment plan that fits your child's needs.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Follow your child's treatment plan. Your child needs to:
    • Follow their meal plan to know how much carbohydrate to eat at each meal and snack. Carbohydrate is the body's main source of fuel. It affects blood sugar more than any other nutrient. Carbohydrate is in fruits, vegetables, milk, and yogurt. It also is in breads, cereals, and sugary foods such as candy and cakes.
    • Get at least 60 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. Encourage your child to be active each day. Your child may like to take a walk with you, ride a bike, or play sports.
    • Take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think your child is having a problem with a medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
    • Check and write down blood sugar levels as often as your doctor tells you to. If your child is too young to do this, you will need to do it.
  • Follow instructions to treat high blood sugar. The symptoms of high blood sugar include:
    • A dry mouth and increased thirst.
    • Blurry vision.
  • Follow instructions to treat low blood sugar. The symptoms of low blood sugar include:
    • Sweating.
    • Shakiness and weakness.
    • Dizziness.
    • A fast heartbeat.
    • Confusion.
  • Learn what to do when your child is sick.
  • Join a support group for parents of children with diabetes. Most areas have local groups.
  • Have your child wear medical alert jewelry that lists diabetes and their allergies. You can buy the jewelry at most drugstores.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has passed out (lost consciousness).
  • Your child is confused or cannot think clearly.
  • Your child's blood sugar is very high or very low.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child's blood sugar stays outside the level your doctor set.
  • Your child has any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.