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Diabetes in Children: Checking Blood Sugar in a Child
Your child needs to know when his or her blood sugar level is outside the target range. Fortunately, your child's blood sugar level can be checked anywhere and anytime by using a home blood sugar (glucose) meter. Blood sugar meters give results quickly.
Knowing your child's blood sugar level helps you treat low or high blood sugar before it becomes an emergency. It also helps you know how exercise and food affect your child's blood sugar and how much short-acting insulin to give (if your child takes insulin).
How is blood sugar monitored?
Here is a simple way to get started monitoring your child's blood sugar at home. Use these same steps to help your child learn this task.
Before you start testing your child's blood sugar:
- Talk with the doctor about how often and when you should test your child's blood sugar. Use a blood sugar testing times form ( What is a PDF document? ) to record this information.
- Link testing your child's blood sugar with other daily activities, such as right after getting ready for breakfast or right before an afternoon activity. This will help your child build the habit of self-testing.
- Be sure you have the supplies you need to test your child's blood sugar. Keep the supplies together so that a test can be done quickly if needed.
- Check your equipment before each test.
- Check the expiration date on the testing strips. If you use test strips after the expiration date on the bottle, you may not get accurate results.
- Many meters don't need a code from the test strips, but some will. If your meter does, make sure the code numbers on the testing strips bottle match the numbers on the blood sugar meter. If the numbers do not match, follow the directions that come with the meter for changing the code numbers.
- Most manufacturers recommend that you use a meter's sugar control solution the first time you use the meter, each time you open a new bottle of test strips, and whenever you need to check the accuracy of the meter's results. Follow the directions that came with your meter for using the control solution properly.
- At regular intervals, check the equipment. Put instructions on how to care for blood sugar supplies in your child's bag or kit to remind you.
Do the test
When you test your child's blood sugar, you will know more about how well his or her treatment is keeping blood sugar within a target range.
Follow these steps when you test your child's blood sugar:
- Wash your hands with warm, soapy water, and dry them well with a clean towel. Have your child wash and dry his or her hands, also.
- Put a clean needle (lancet) in the pen-sized lancet device. It holds and positions the lancet and controls how deeply the lancet goes into the skin.
- Take a test strip from the bottle. Put the lid back on the bottle immediately to prevent moisture from affecting the other strips.
- Prepare the blood sugar meter. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for your specific meter.
- Use the lancet device to stick the side of your child's fingertip with the lancet. Some devices and blood sugar meters allow blood testing on other parts of the body, such as the forearm, leg, or hand. Be sure you know where your device can be used.
- Put a drop of blood on the correct spot on the test strip, covering the test area well.
- Using a clean cotton ball, apply pressure to the place where you stuck your child's finger (or other site). This will stop the bleeding.
- Wait for the results. Most meters take only a few seconds to give you the results.
Record the results
Recording your child's blood sugar results is very important. The doctor will use your child's record to see how often blood sugar levels have been in a target range and to determine if your child's insulin dose or other diabetes medicine needs to be adjusted. This information lets you and your doctor know how your child's medicine, food, and activity are affecting your child's blood sugar. Be sure to take your child's record with you on each visit to the doctor or diabetes educator.
To record your child's results, you can:
- Get printed blood sugar logs from companies that make diabetes medicines and supplies. Or use a home blood sugar diary ( What is a PDF document? ).
- Make a blood sugar log in a notebook. You can record other information in the log or notebook, such as insulin doses, physical activity, and what your child has eaten.
- Use the memory-storage feature of the meter and other note-taking features. Find out if your child's doctor can transfer the data to your child's medical record or if you can make reports to share.
Preventing sore fingers
The more often your child's blood sugar is tested, the more likely it is your child will have sore fingertips. Here are some suggestions to help reduce this pain.
- Don't prick the tip of your child's finger. If you do, the prick will be more painful, and you may not get enough blood to do the test accurately. Always prick the side of the fingertip.
- Don't squeeze your child's fingertip. If you have trouble getting a drop of blood large enough to cover the test area of the strip, hang your child's hand down below his or her waist and count to 5. Then squeeze your child's finger beginning closest to his or her hand and moving outward to the end of the finger.
- Use a different finger each time. Establish a pattern for which finger you stick so that you won't use some fingers more than others. If a finger becomes sore, avoid using it for testing for a few days.
- Use a different device. Some blood sugar meters use lancet devices that can get a blood sample from sites other than the fingers, such as the forearm, leg, or hand.
- Use a different lancet. Some lancet devices can be set to prick the skin deeply or lightly depending on the thickness of your child's skin and where on your child's body you are getting the blood.
- Don't reuse lancets. They get dull and cause pain. A used lancet can carry bacteria that can make your child sick. Some people reuse lancets anyway. If you do, wash your and your child's hands well each time. And use a new lancet each day to reduce the chance for bacteria growth.
Current as of: April 16, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:John Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Stephen H. LaFranchi, MD - Pediatric Endocrinology
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