Kids and Insulin
Taking insulin need not take over your daily routine, thereby making your child "different." He or she can live a full, active life alongside his or her peers. This section will review some of the unique considerations for children taking insulin. Be sure to discuss these and other considerations with your child's healthcare team. Together, you can determine what may work best to help keep your child healthy and happy.
Fear of injections: How to handle the "ouch" factor
Understandably, children from toddlers to teens may be frightened by insulin injections (shots). It can help to acknowledge their fears: "Yes, I know it hurts. You're being very brave." Positive reinforcement is generally preferred over scolding or threats, to keep the experience in a positive light. Also, be open with your child and talk about their feelings. Fear, hostility, and guilt are all normal emotions for the situation. Your healthcare provider can help you anticipate some of the common reactions among children so that you can address them appropriately.
Newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes and the "honeymoon" phase
It is common for children with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes to enter a "honeymoon" phase when they start insulin. However, this phase is only temporary. It can start within several weeks after starting insulin, but it will generally end within a few months. Children in the honeymoon phase may need less insulin than initially prescribed by their doctor. It's important to work closely with your healthcare team when starting your child on insulin. They can identify if your child enters this phase and make adjustments to their insulin doses.
Issues unique to young and school-aged children
There are many issues unique to infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-aged children when starting insulin. Be sure to ask your healthcare team about age-specific concerns when starting insulin. One of the most common issues for anyone with diabetes is low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Your child may experience low blood sugar if they have too much insulin or not enough food. Young children are especially challenged by low blood sugar because they may not understand what's happening to their bodies. They may also lack the verbal skills to communicate their symptoms.
You should check your child's blood sugar (glucose) often to help detect low blood sugar. This is especially important for young children. It's important that you know how to give your child an injectable treatment for severe low blood sugar. (To learn how to recognize and treat symptoms, see our Dealing with Lows section.) Also, work with your healthcare team to determine the appropriate blood sugar targets for your child. They may be adjusted to address the risk of low blood sugar.
For more detailed information about kids and insulin, see our Diabetes Resources section to access downloadable materials and links to websites and organizations dedicated to this topic.