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November is American Diabetes Month

Updated: Nov 16, 2022

What is Type I Diabetes?

Type 1 Diabetes is an organ-specific auto immune disease specifically involving the pancreas and its production of essential hormones. In a person with type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. Insulin is responsible for monitoring blood sugar in the cells that the body uses to make energy.

Type 1 Diabetes is also known as insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes. Most children are

diagnosed with type 1 diabetes before age 14. Please continue reading for common signs and symptoms associated with type 1 diabetes and contact your doctor if you have concerns that your child has type 1 diabetes.

To learn more about type 1 diabetes please visit the CDC website or check out our resources.

What is the difference between Type I and Type II Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is a genetic condition that often first shows up in children whereas, the more

commonly diagnosed, type 2 diabetes is typically associated with lifestyle habits and develops over time.

Type 1 diabetes is a genetic autoimmune disease, meaning the body’s immune system mistakes the cells in the pancreas as harmful and attacks the insulin producing cells. If insulin is not effectively produced then the body can enter a state of hyperglycemia, also known as high blood sugar.

For more comparisons between type 1 and type 2 diabetes check out Diabetes UK. Or to learn more about the roles of insulin and glucose in the body go to this article by Mayo Clinic.

Signs and Symptoms of Type I Diabetes


  • Frequent trips to the bathroom

  • Unusual bed wetting

  • Slowed healing of general cuts and wounds

  • Fruity smelling breath


  • Extreme thirst

  • Feeling very hungry

  • Fatigue or feeling unusually tired

  • Feeling irritable or mood changes

  • Weight loss

  • Genital itching

  • Blurry vision

See your child’s doctor if you notice any of the signs or symptoms associated with type 1 diabetes especially if another member in your family has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

How to care for a child with Type I Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes requires a lifetime of management involving a learning more about the disease, keeping a balanced diet, monitoring blood sugar, medication management, and regular doctor’s visits, and eventually teaching your child how to independently manage this disease and maximize their quality of life.

Type 1 diabetes can be an overwhelming diagnosis for children and their families but there are support groups and resources available for both the patients and parents. Check out diaTribeLearn for details on support groups, resources, and access to a 24-hour diabetes support line.

Managing Blood Sugar is one of the key elements of care for a child diagnosed with type 1

diabetes. Work with your child’s doctor to attain a glucose monitor and insulin for your child to facilitate blood glucose monitoring. Most children with type 1 diabetes undergo regular, daily blood glucose measurements with a glucose meter. This provides information on how much glucose, or sugar, is present in the blood stream. A generally normal range for blood glucose in a child with type 1 diabetes should be between 80-130 mg/dL, however, may be higher after a meal but shouldn’t exceed 180mg/dL.

Even with close monitoring or blood sugar levels, a child with type 1 diabetes will experience both too high and too low blood sugar levels. If blood sugar gets too low this is called hypoglycemia and should be treated right away. If you child has a blood glucose below 80mg/dL, generally offing your child a snack that has a high sugar content. This can include things like juice, candy, glucose tablets and more. It is important to re-check the blood sugar levels after your child consumes some sugar to ensure their blood sugar reaches normal ranges.

If your child is diagnosed with or showing signs of type 1 diabetes and enters a hypoglycemic state which causes loss of consciousness or begins having a seizure call

911 right away.

To recognize the signs of hypoglycemia, look out for:

  • Shakiness

  • Increased heart rate

  • Pale skin

  • Sweating

  • Blurry vision

  • Extreme hunger

  • Lightheadedness

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Tiredness

  • Mood changes

  • Confusion

  • Seizures (in severe cases)

For more about hypoglycemia go to KidsHealth

If blood sugar gets too high this is called hyperglycemia and it occurs when the body does not have enough insulin to use the sugar in the blood. Hyperglycemic states can happen every day or several times a day in children with type 1 diabetes and typically requires a balancing act with diet and exercise to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. This can also be measured with a glucose monitor and can be identified if blood glucose is above 130mg/dL or above 180mg/dL if your child had a meal within the past 2 hours. Hyperglycemia is typically treated with insulin in children with type 1 diabetes and your child’s doctor can instruct how and when to administer insulin and provide details and demonstration.

To recognize signs of hyperglycemia, look out for:

  • Extreme thirst

  • Frequent urination

  • Loss of energy

  • Nausea or stomachache

  • Blurry vision or trouble seeing

  • Poor concentration

  • Confusion

For more about hyperglycemia and managing blood sugar go to KidsHealth


For frequently asked questions check out JDRF for answers from experts.

Type I Diabetes and Autoimmunity -

CDC What is Type 1 Diabetes? -

Type 1 diabetes: pathophysiology and diagnosis -

Differences Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes -

Diabetes Symptoms ADA -

Mayo Clinic Type 1 Diabetes in Children -

KidsHealth Managing Blood Sugars When Your Child Has Type 1 Diabetes -

KidsHealth Hypoglycemia and Diabetes -

Hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia in type 1 diabetes -


This article was written by Olivia Hall. Olivia is a Doctor of Physical Therapy Student at Hanover College and President of her class. She currently lives in New Mexico but frequently travels and loves to go on hikes with her dog.

Skyrocket Pediatric Therapy Foundation (Skyrocket) does not provide medical or legal advice or services. Skyrocket provides general information about developmental disabilities and developmental therapies as a service to the community. The information provided on our website is not a recommendation, referral or endorsement of any resource, therapeutic method, or service provider and does not replace the advice of medical, legal or educational professionals. Skyrocket has not validated and is not responsible for any information, events, or services provided by third parties. The views and opinions expressed in blogs on our website do not necessarily reflect the views of Skyrocket.

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