Explaining Blood Sugar Swings to the Uninitiated

A mother of a child newly diagnosed with Type 1 learns from a diabetes educator what it’s like to feel high or low.

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Integrated Diabetes Services (IDS) provides detailed advice and coaching on diabetes management from certified diabetes educators and dieticians. Insulin Nation hosts a regular Q&A column from IDS that answers questions submitted from the Type 1 diabetes community.

Q: My 4-year-old was diagnosed with Type 1 a little over a month ago. I am just curious about what it physically feels like for her to experience highs and lows. Does it hurt?

A: Fluctuations in blood sugar levels affect how people with diabetes feel and interact with the world.

Blood sugars in excess of 200 mg/dL can cause a certain degree of tiredness, lack of energy, mental “cloudiness,” and moodiness. For school-age children, this can lead to a decrease in attention span that can impact academic performance. Blood sugars below 70 mg/dL usually produce hypoglycemic symptoms, which can include shaking, sweating, rapid heartbeat, and, once again, an inability to concentrate.

Moderately high or low blood sugar may impact your child’s long-term health if it happens chronically, but your child won’t necessarily “hurt” at the time. However, if blood sugar symptoms go severely high or low, then it can immediately endanger your child’s health.

It’s important to note that the physical sensation of having high or low blood sugars can vary for each individual with diabetes. It might be best to ask your child to describe how she felt after you have treated a high or low blood sugar. Not only will it help you understand what she’s experiencing, but it can help her begin to identify for herself when her blood sugar levels go out of bounds.

Have a Question? Insulin-Quiring Minds is a free service of the clinical team at Integrated Diabetes Services LLC. Submit your questions to jennifer@integrateddiabetes.com. All questions will be answered, and yours may be chosen to appear on Insulin Nation.

Integrated Diabetes Services provides one-on-one education and glucose regulation for people who use insulin. Diabetes “coaching” services are available in-person and remotely via phone and online for children and adults. Integrated Diabetes Services offers specialized services for insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor users, athletes, pregnancy & Type 1 diabetes, and those with Type 2 diabetes who require insulin. For more information, call 1-610-642-6055, go to integrateddiabetes.com or write info@integrateddiabetes.com

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Jennifer Smith holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Nutrition and Biology from the University of Wisconsin. She is a registered and licensed dietitian, certified diabetes educator, and certified trainer on most makes/models of insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring systems. She has lived with Type 1 diabetes since she was a child,and thus has first-hand knowledge of the day-to-day events that affect diabetes management.