Signs Of Type 1 Diabetes In Kids

Type 1 diabetes isn’t just a condition affecting adults. Kids can also be diagnosed with it, which is why it’s crucial to look out for common signs and symptoms.

In this article, we’ll cover the signs of type 1 diabetes in kids of all ages, how it’s diagnosed, the treatments available, and support options for both the parent and child. 

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We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Type 1 diabetes, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

What is type 1 diabetes in kids?

Type 1 diabetes is most common in young people under 20, though it can affect anyone at any age. It can arise in babies and very young infants, so it is important to be aware of all the warning signs. 

Children with type 1 diabetes do not produce a vital hormone — insulin. This is a serious concern, as people with type one diabetes suffer from diabetic ketoacidosis¹ (DKA), so they are unable to get energy into their cell tissue. Worryingly, this can be fatal if left untreated. 

Arising suddenly, type 1 diabetes has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle and is never the parent's fault. 

There are some key signs of type 1 diabetes that parents and guardians should be aware of for early detection. 

For children of all ages, the most telling signs of type 1 diabetes are increased thirst, extreme hunger coupled with weight loss, moodiness and irritability, a constant need to urinate, and, potentially, bedwetting. 

Other signs include loss of vision, which, unlike some of the other observable symptoms, may go unnoticed if the child is too young to articulate a problem of this nature.

Thankfully, people with type 1 diabetes can live a relatively normal life if they follow a healthy lifestyle. However, they will need regular medical check-ups and ongoing insulin treatment. 

Common symptoms

Signs of type 1 diabetes in babies:

  • Fatigue

  • Extreme hunger

  • Weight loss

  • Sweet- or fruity-smelling breath

  • Yeast infection

  • Changes in vision

Signs of type 1 diabetes in toddlers

The symptoms are similar to diabetes in toddlers. However, it is often easier to detect as they may be able to communicate some symptoms like vision impairment. 

Toddlers who return to bedwetting after successfully toilet training should be a cause for concern. These signs are more noticeable when the child is past infancy.

Symptoms can develop quickly, so it is important to visit a doctor with even the slightest concern. If left untreated, type 1 diabetes can lead to ketoacidosis and, potentially, death. 

Signs of type 1 diabetes in older children and teens

Similar symptoms present themselves in older children and maybe even more obvious. 

Teenagers are more likely to express concerns about their symptoms and tend to communicate better with parents when they notice such things as vision changes and extreme hunger.


Fasting plasma glucose

This test is completed when the patient has undergone fasting — which means not eating for at least 8 hours. Generally, people will do this test at breakfast time after not eating during sleep. 

Usually, two fasting plasma glucose tests are done over two separate days to determine fasting plasma glucose levels — this ensures accurate results.

 If the blood glucose level is greater than or equal to 126 mg/dI on both days, the patient will fall into the diabetic category.

Random plasma glucose

This is the first test for type 1 diabetes and involves having a blood test taken at a random time. Diabetes is likely when a random plasma glucose test comes back at or higher than 11.1 millimoles per liter, combined with other symptoms.

A1C test (Glycated hemoglobin)

This test is meant to identify a child's average blood sugar level over 3 months. An A1C level of 6.5% or higher, measured over two separate tests, suggests diabetes.

Islet autoantibodies

Islet autoantibodies appear when the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas are damaged or dysfunctional. It is part of the autoimmune response people with type 1 diabetes have, so islet autoantibodies are a vital early sign of the condition. 

These can be detected sometime before the beta cells are destroyed. Establishing whether or not a patient has islet autoantibodies is among the initial steps doctors take when diagnosing type 1 diabetes. 

Urine ketones

High urine ketones can denote diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Ketone levels can be determined through a ketone urine test. If detected, the body has already begun to respond to low, unregulated blood sugar by consuming its fatty and muscle tissues. 

This is an advanced symptom of diabetes and should spark an immediate response. 


Because having type 1 diabetes means the body does not produce insulin, treatment tends to involve insulin medication.² 

This poor insulin production (inability to make insulin or insulin made doesn’t work) leads to insulin dependence. This is where people rely on insulin medication to regulate blood sugar levels and facilitate the conversion of food into energy. 

Daily insulin

Inhaling dry powder insulin (IDPI) is done regularly before meals to increase glycemic control. 

However, multiple daily insulin injections with a mix of fast-acting and long-acting injections at adjustable doses or an insulin pump with continuously administered insulin are the most common options. 

Insulin administration

Insulin is usually administered as a dry powder (IDPI) or daily injections. Children will learn to do these themselves over time. But until they can, parents are usually relied on to keep track of their child's medication. Doctors and school nurses may also be involved in insulin administration.

An insulin pump³ is also a common way of administering insulin, which has been linked with positive outcomes for diabetes management, proving to be effective and safe. Using an insulin pump is scientifically referred to as continuous subcutaneous insulin infusion (CSII) and has been shown to help with metabolic control⁴ better than MDI (metered dose inhaler) treatment.

Dietary management

Eating⁵ healthy is a cornerstone of health for anyone, including children with type 1 diabetes. Eating various plant-based and whole-grain foods is the most widely recommended eating plan for people with and without diabetes. Always limit the consumption of highly sugary foods. 

Lifestyle management

Similarly, lifestyle recommendations for people with type 1 diabetes are the same for anyone seeking to live a healthier lifestyle. Regular exercise, hydration, healthy eating, plenty of sleep, and limited stress are all important for a healthy lifestyle with or without diabetes. 

Helping parents cope with their children's type 1 diabetes

Mental health professionals

A diagnosis of type 1 diabetes can understandably have a significant psychological impact on children and parents alike. 

For children, it can lead to a range of mental health implications alongside other symptoms. Mood fluctuations can develop into long-term anxiety and depression.

For parents, the increased stress of looking after a diabetic child can take a considerable toll on them. 

Parents should seek the help of trained medical professionals and look to the child’s school for additional support. They should also consider taking their child to regular sessions with trained mental health professionals. 

Learning to deal with a major health condition can be a long and stressful process for both child and parent. While type 1 diabetes is a lifelong journey, it is a manageable one. 

Social workers

A diagnosis of type 1 diabetes can be life-changing. The medical treatment regime takes up a big part of the child's life, activity and play have to be monitored, and children may feel different from their non-diabetic peers. 

Children need to be helped through the process by professionals who understand what changes are occurring and know how best to deal with the mental health difficulties that may arise with the condition. 

Diabetes educators

Similarly, diabetes educators play a vital role in helping children with diabetes understand their condition. But parents, caregivers, teachers, and peers also play important roles. Learning about the disease will prevent misunderstanding. 

Children are more likely to receive the support they need when people around them are more educated. Furthermore, people must know how to respond during an emergency, like a drastic change in blood sugar levels. 

Improved education can help people notice early signs of type 1 diabetes and help save lives. 

Helping children cope with their type 1 diabetes diagnosis

School counselors

School counselors can provide support for children with diabetes while at school. It is important that teachers are aware of a child's needs and can help keep track of medication and potential warning signs.

 Informing the school that your child has type 1 diabetes is essential to ensuring they can get the care and support they require. It can also be a way to provide mental health support due to the stressful nature of the condition. 

As type 1 diabetes is linked to anxiety and depression, children must have trained professionals nearby to help them navigate the long-term difficulties of dealing with a condition like a type 1 diabetes.

Support group

A support group can be a great way to help children with type 1 diabetes feel cared for and included.

 It can also be a way for diabetic children to meet other children managing the disease. This way, they can share their difficulties in an understanding environment and feel that their concerns are shared among the group. 

Early intervention

Keeping a close eye on symptoms of type 1 diabetes in children can assist in early intervention and improve the chances of avoiding adverse symptoms like ketoacidosis. 

It can be difficult to detect symptoms in very young children. Infants cannot communicate their symptoms, and their behavior does not always appear noticeably different from other children. 

An islet autoantibody test can also determine type 1 diabetes before the onset of any other symptoms, and so it facilitates early intervention.

When to see a doctor

Parents should immediately take their child to a doctor at the first sign of any of the symptoms of type 1 diabetes.

The lowdown

Type 1 diabetes can affect anyone, but it is most commonly diagnosed in people under 20. It is important to keep an eye out for common symptoms in children — as infants, in particular, may not be able to communicate feelings of illness. 

While type 1 diabetes is an incurable disease, it can be managed. With the right care and assistance from medical professionals, the condition does not need to have a major impact on a child's life.

It is perfectly normal for a parent to feel anxious and stressed about their child, but with the correct care and advice, the symptoms are manageable.

Have you considered clinical trials for Type 1 diabetes?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Type 1 diabetes, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

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