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Patient education: Giving your child insulin (The Basics)

Patient education: Giving your child insulin (The Basics)

What is insulin? — Insulin is a hormone that helps the body use sugar. Children with type 1 diabetes (or "type 1 diabetes mellitus") need to take insulin as a medicine to lower their body's blood sugar level.

Are there different types of insulin? — Yes. Some types of insulin start working faster than others or last for a longer amount of time. Your child will need different types of insulin each day. That way, his or her body can have the right amount of insulin all day and night.

How many times a day does my child need insulin? — It depends on your child's treatment plan. Your child will need insulin doses at different times of the day, including before they eat meals and snacks.

How much insulin should I use? — For some doses, your child's doctor or nurse will tell you how much insulin to give your child. For other doses, you will need to figure out the amount of insulin to give to your child. The amount of insulin will depend on:

What your child will eat at the next meal

How much exercise your child plans to do

What your child's blood sugar level is

You will need to change your child's insulin dose at certain times, such as when:

Your child gets sick or has surgery

You travel or your child's routine changes

Your child grows older and gets bigger

Your child does certain activities, such as camps or sports

Your child's doctor or nurse will tell you how to change the insulin dose during these times.

How do I give my child insulin? — Insulin comes in different forms. The best form for your child depends on his or her situation. Your child's doctor will help you figure out which form to use.

Many children get insulin as a shot (called an "injection"). When your child is young, you will need to give them insulin shots. When your child gets older, they can learn to give the insulin shots.

Your child's doctor or nurse will teach you how to give your child an insulin shot. You will need to use a needle and syringe to draw up the right amount of insulin from a small bottle. Then you:

Choose a part of the body – You can give insulin shots in different parts of the body (figure 1). It's best to change the part of the body each time you give the shot.

Clean that area, if your doctor or nurse recommends it. Some people use an alcohol wipe.

Pinch up some skin and quickly insert the needle.

Push the plunger down all the way and then count to 5.

Let go of the skin and remove the needle.

Throw out the used needle and syringe in a container that is made for used needles – Do not throw out used needles and syringes in the regular trash.

Instead of a needle and syringe, some children get insulin in a device called a "pen injector." This device looks like a pen (figure 2). It contains insulin and uses a new needle for each dose. The steps for using a pen injector are very similar to the steps for using a needle and syringe (figure 3).

Can my child use an insulin pump? — Your child might have the option of using an insulin pump instead of getting daily shots. An insulin pump is a device that slowly delivers insulin to the body. The insulin goes from the pump, through a thin tube, and into the body through a tiny needle put under the skin. Insulin pumps work by giving small doses of fast-acting insulin throughout the day and night. Before meals and snacks, you or your child can use the pump to give extra insulin (called a "meal bolus"). Some children can use a special type of pump that automatically adjusts some of the insulin doses. This is sometimes called a "closed loop system" or "artificial pancreas."

Many people prefer using a pump to giving insulin shots every day. But it takes time to learn how to use it. Your child's doctor might suggest giving shots at first, until you have gotten used to managing your child's diabetes.

How do I know if I'm giving my child the right amount of insulin? — To know if you are giving your child the right amount of insulin, you can check your child's blood sugar level.

If you use too much insulin, your child's blood sugar level can get too low. If you don't use enough insulin, your child's blood sugar level can get too high. Levels that are too low or too high can cause serious problems.

Checking your child's blood sugar level can also help you choose your child's next insulin dose. To check your child's blood sugar level, you can use a device called a "blood glucose meter." Your child's doctor or nurse will show you how to use it. Some children use a device that measures the blood sugar all the time. This is called "continuous monitoring." This device has a special sensor that is inserted under the skin. It measures blood sugar and sends the information to a small box that can attach to clothing or go in a bag.

More on this topic

Patient education: Type 1 diabetes (The Basics)
Patient education: Checking your child's blood sugar level (The Basics)
Patient education: Controlling blood sugar in children with diabetes (The Basics)
Patient education: Carb counting for children with diabetes (The Basics)
Patient education: Managing diabetes in school (The Basics)
Patient education: The ABCs of diabetes (The Basics)
Patient education: Using insulin (The Basics)
Patient education: Should I switch to an insulin pump? (The Basics)

Patient education: Type 1 diabetes: Insulin treatment (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Blood glucose monitoring in diabetes (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jan 01, 2023.
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