December 6, 2019

Preparing for winter illness when your child has type 1 diabetes

When your child has type 1 diabetes, fighting a cold or the flu is made easier with this handy guide. It will help you handle symptoms and prevent diabetic ketoacidosis — a buildup of too much acid in the blood.

Helpful tips

A sick child's body produces stress hormones that raise blood-glucose levels to potentially dangerous levels. Even if your child doesn't feel like eating, encourage him or her to do so, or at least drink fluids every few hours. Try sipping small amounts to drink more frequently. Consider eating easy-to-digest foods such as applesauce, crackers, soup and Jell-O.

Using medications

Most common over-the-counter medications are safe with diabetes but may contain some sugar for flavoring. Check labels for carbohydrate counts so you know if this may be affecting your child's sugar trends. As with any child, acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help with the discomfort of a fever, but remember cold medications, cough suppressants and decongestants are no longer recommended for children. If your child is nauseous, this can be a symptom of ketone build-up, so anti-nausea medications are NOT recommended for use at home as they may hide the warning signs that your child is developing diabetic ketoacidosis.

Staying hydrated

When your child throws up or has diarrhea, he or she runs the risk of becoming dehydrated, and this can be even more dangerous when ketones are building up. Encourage your child to drink around eight ounces (one cup) or more of fluid every hour — sugary drinks if blood sugar levels are up to 250mg/dl, and water if they are >250mg/dl. If your child has an upset stomach, drinking sips slowly every 15-20 minutes may help prevent vomiting.

Call 911 or go to the emergency room if your child experiences any of the following:

  • Can't eat or drink

  • Severe headache

  • Vomiting more than six hours

  • Trouble breathing

  • Large ketones for more than nine hours

  • Not making sense or not waking up