Pediatric diabetes

Resources for new diabetes patients and families

If you are visiting this page, you have likely been told that you, your child, or someone you love has a new diagnosis of diabetes. This information can feel overwhelming. This page is designed to give you more information and link to resources to learn more about living well with diabetes.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes Mellitus is a condition where the body can’t get energy normally because of a problem with insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is usually made in the pancreas, an organ that sits behind the stomach. Insulin allows sugar in the blood to be used by cells for energy.

What should you expect while you are in the hospital?

The goal of the hospital stay at the time diabetes is diagnosed is to make sure your child is healthy, and you have all the information and skills needed to take care of them when you go home. Our team of diabetes experts will help give you the information and skills you need to be successful. You will meet with experts in diabetes education (nurses and learning center educators), nutrition (registered dietitians), health psychology, pharmacy, child life, social work, and others while you are in the hospital. Typically, families are in the hospital for a few days after diagnosis to learn about diabetes, and then follow-up closely over the phone and at appointments with our diabetes team in the clinic.

While your child is here, we’ll teach you:

  • The different types of diabetes

  • How to calculate insulin doses

  • How to prepare and give an insulin injection

  • How to treat a low blood sugar

  • How to treat a high blood sugar

  • When and how to check for ketones

Review a checklist showing the skills we will teach you before going home (pdf)

Learn what to expect from your child’s hospital stay (pdf)

How is diabetes treated?

The good news is that children can continue to be very healthy and live well with diabetes. The treatment for all types of diabetes includes medications, blood sugar monitoring, physical activity, and a healthy diet. The goal of diabetes management is to keep blood sugars near a normal range by using medication, food, and exercise.

Most patients in the hospital with newly diagnosed diabetes will take two types of insulin to try to mimic what the pancreas does in people who don’t have diabetes. These insulins are often called long-acting insulin and rapid-acting insulin.

For patients with Type 2 diabetes, there may be other medications that can be taken by mouth or injected under the skin after blood sugars are in a more normal range. Your diabetes provider will discuss these options with you.

Learn more about how to give injections, check blood sugars, or give glucagon through our "Learn How To" video series.

How will I know which type of diabetes my child has?

During your hospital stay we will send labs to look for markers of autoimmune damage to the pancreas. These tests often come back once your child is home. Our diabetes team will discuss the labs with you by phone or letter, or at your diabetes follow-up appointments. It is important to follow the treatment plan given by your diabetes team regardless of the type of diabetes your child has.

Is there technology that can make diabetes care easier?

Diabetes technology, including insulin pumps (small computers that can deliver insulin), continuous glucose monitors (devices that measure glucose under the skin), apps, and other tools are options for many patients. They can help make diabetes care more convenient. All diabetes technology requires careful monitoring. To learn more read the hand out about diabetes technology provided by our team, or visit our diabetes technology page.

You can use this calculator to generate a dosing grid that can help with diabetes calculations.

Returning to school

Going back to school is often concerning for children and parents after a new diagnosis of diabetes. One of the best things you can do is to reach out to your school early after diagnosis to let them know that your child will have new care needs when they return to school. You may want to ask who will be available in the building to help with diabetes care, and if they have experience with diabetes care.

Our team will provide orders with your child’s doses on them. You may want to schedule a meeting with the school to review these orders and talk the specific plan for your child. Our guide for returning to school with a new diagnosis of diabetes is often a helpful place to start.

When will I talk to the diabetes team once I go home?

There is a lot to learn about diabetes when your child is first diagnosed. Because of this we will schedule frequent follow-up with our team for the first few months.

  • 1-2 days: Call the diabetes nurses at (608) 890-9400 to review blood sugars and discuss any questions that you have. Have your logbook and any questions ready when you call.

  • 1-2 weeks, 4-6 weeks, and 3 months after diagnosis: We will make appointments for you to see a provider in our diabetes clinic. These appointments may be virtual or in person and will usually last 1½-2 hours. Please bring your glucometer and logbook with you.

  • Every 3 months: We see patients with diabetes for routine follow-up about every 3 months.

Be prepared

We recommend that your child always carry a bag or kit with diabetes supplies. This should include:

  • Blood sugar meter (glucometer), test strips, lancets

  • Humalog or Novolog insulin with syringes or pen needles

  • Fast-acting sugar to treat lows (enough for at least 2 treatments)

  • Glucagon

  • Ketostix

  • Protein or carbohydrate snack (ex. cheese and crackers) to stabilize blood sugar after a low (if needed)

We also recommend carrying a copy of our sick day plan, a list of current insulin doses, and information about how to reach our clinic.

It is a good idea for children with diabetes to wear a Medical ID bracelet or necklace to alert others of their diabetes diagnosis. You can often find these at pharmacies, or online. Some places you might look include:

Patient checklist

The UW Health Pediatric Diabetes Clinic has prepared the following checklist for our young patients who have been recently diagnosed with diabetes and their families.

  • Understand the basic information about what diabetes is and how it effects the body.

  • Poke finger and check blood sugar using a home meter.

  • Learn what foods contain carbohydrates and how to count grams of carbs.

  • Know how to calculate an insulin dose using carbs and a correction scale for high blood sugar.

  • Give an insulin injection (all caregivers and child, if appropriate for age).

  • Demonstrate understanding of the signs/symptoms of low and high blood sugar and how to treat them.

  • Review what to do differently when you are sick, and how and when to check ketones.

  • Know when to call the Peds Diabetes team and store the number in your phone.

  • Identify a way to keep meter, insulin, something to treat lows, glucagon and snacks with you at all times.

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