When My Child’s Blood Sugar Level Hit 20

I was chatting with a teacher at my children’s elementary school when the secretary interrupted.

“Mrs. Humayun,” she said. “Zayd is 20!”

I imagined my son passed out on the floor with paramedics hovering over him. I walked in to find him grinning foolishly. He was excited.

“Mom, I’m 20! This is the lowest I’ve been and I can walk around. See?”

He walked around to prove it. If I had to guess, I would have put money on Zayd being high, not low. I rechecked him. He was 20. The meter was working and so was the pump.

This is almost a daily occurrence for us. While Zayd has never passed out from hypoglycemia, his sugar levels frequently drop. Most of the time, he can’t feel that he is low and he doesn’t exhibit the typical symptoms. He only feels hungry, and even that is a pretty inconsistent symptom. He’ll feel hungry while running high, too.

I became really concerned when I started looking up tips on how to manage frequent bouts of mild hypoglycemia in kids. According to some research, with each mild hypoglycemic episode the body’s natural response to future episodes becomes delayed. With more frequent episodes, the body learns to ignore the initial indicators of hypoglycemia and may not show any symptoms until severe hypoglycemia hits. The key is to check frequently, have predictable meal times, and follow blood sugar trends.

Sounds good in theory, but how does one balance that with school, after-school activities, homework, peer pressure, and daily stress? Right before Zayd tested, he had finished a science project made with graham crackers and had nibbled on a few. While the crackers didn’t have as fast-acting sugars as juice, the slow release of the sugars most likely helped him to keep from passing out. Still, while I was thankful he still had the energy to walk around while being so low, it scared me.

Part of me feels guilty. I take A1c numbers personally. Zayd’s doctor had warned me against it. “It’s not a report card of your ability to manage his numbers,” they say.

It’s hard not to take this personally. It reflects on my ability to manage his blood sugars along with our day-to-day routines. The last year has been especially tough. Zayd’s A1c went from being too low to being on the higher end of the range.

His doctor suggested a continuous glucose monitor. Zayd was initially resistant to the idea. He didn’t like the idea of wearing two devices. However, after that scary school episode, he agreed to it. We just got it last week, so I haven’t yet see it prevent a low, but it is already a relief. My hope is that not only will it prevent a dangerous low, it will also help Zayd’s body stand on guard for every low.

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Fizza Humayun studied Biology and Marketing at Baruch College in New York City. She now lives in Los Angeles and is a mother of two children, one of whom is T1.

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