Children and teens who have type 1 diabetes must take insulin as part of their treatment plan. Insulin is the only medicine that can keep their blood sugar levels in a healthy range.
Taking insulin as prescribed lets them use the glucose in their blood for energy. When glucose is entering and being used by the cells properly, its level in the blood generally remains within a healthy range.
Unless they’re using an insulin pump, most kids need two or more injections every day to keep blood sugar levels under control. Usually, they inject a combination of different types of insulin to handle the sugar that circulates in the blood after eating and between meals. The acids and digestive juices in the stomach and intestines can break down and destroy insulin if it is swallowed, so it can’t be taken as a pill. The only way to get insulin into the body now is by injection with a needle or with an insulin pump.
There is no-one-size-fits-all insulin schedule — the types of insulin used and number of daily injections a child needs will depend on the diabetes management plan. Also, you can’t turn off the action of insulin once it’s injected. So insulin doses need to be adjusted to handle the rise in blood sugar that happens with meals and provide the amounts of insulin the body needs between meals and overnight.
Eating meals at regular times generally makes this easier. Although eating on schedule may work well for younger kids, sticking to a routine can be a challenge for older kids and teens, whose school, sleep, and social schedules often vary. The diabetes health care team can help you work through any problems your child might have with scheduling meals and insulin injections.
Getting insulin injections today is nearly painless, thanks to smaller needles. Insulin pumps (which deliver insulin through a small tube that is placed just under the skin) cut down on the number of injections needed.
Insulin usually is injected into the fatty layer under the skin of the abdomen, hips/buttocks, or thighs. The health care team will teach you when and how to give the insulin, as well as the best injection sites, based on your child’s weight, age, and activity patterns.