How to effectively manage childhood diabetes


4 minutes

24 June 2024

A mother and her child navigating childhood diabetes

Navigating childhood diabetes can be daunting for parents and carers, but understanding its types, symptoms, and emotional impact is crucial for supporting your child's wellbeing.

From recognising early signs and symptoms to fostering independence in management, this blog is designed to equip you with the tools you need to navigate your child's diabetes journey with confidence.

Understanding childhood diabetes

A chronic condition characterised by elevated levels of blood sugar, diabetes results from either insufficient production of insulin or the body's ineffective use of insulin, a natural hormone made in our pancreas.1

Diabetes in children can be classified into type 1 and type 2. Traditionally, type 1 diabetes was predominant among children, but increasingly, cases of type 2 diabetes are emerging due to factors like family history, obesity, and lifestyle choices.2

Type 1 diabetes requires insulin injections, while type 2 diabetes can often be managed through a combination of healthy eating, exercise, medication, and regular glucose monitoring.2

Symptoms and diagnosis of diabetes in children

Symptoms of diabetes can be hard to spot in children, and often develop quickly. Signs to look out for in children under five include3:

  • being very thirsty
  • being very hungry
  • urinating more
  • feeling tired and weak
  • losing weight without explanation
  • having blurred vision
  • having a yeast infection
  • having fruity-smelling breath
  • being irritable, restless or moody

To diagnose type 1 diabetes in children, healthcare providers typically conduct tests to measure blood glucose levels, assess haemoglobin A1c levels, and detect the presence of autoantibodies associated with type 1 diabetes.4

In cases where type 2 diabetes is suspected, additional assessments may include evaluating risk factors such as family history, obesity, and physical activity levels.3  

Emotional impact of a diabetes diagnosis

A diabetes diagnosis can elicit a range of emotions in children and teenagers, including shock, denial, anger, frustration and fear. Additionally, concerns about managing diabetes in social situations, such as school or extracurricular activities like sports, may arise.2

Emotional support from you, extended family members, friends, and of course healthcare professionals, is going to be invaluable during their adjustment period.

If your child is finding it challenging to manage their diabetes due to feelings of depression, anxiety, or being overwhelmed, it's crucial to seek help from a social worker or psychologist.2

Supporting your diabetic child in school

It's natural as a parent or caregiver to feel concerned when your child with diabetes starts or returns to school. However, it’s important to remember schools are committed to ensuring your child's safety and well-being.2

As a parent or carer, it’s essential for you to equip your child’s school with necessary information and resources to support your child's diabetes management during school hours, including by providing a diabetes management and action plan developed by your child's diabetes educator. 

What is a diabetes management and action plan

A diabetes management and action plan are essential documents that outline specific guidelines and procedures for managing diabetes in various settings, such as at home, school, or during extracurricular activities.

The plan you provide to your child’s school should include management of2:

  • Glucose monitoring
  • Hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose)
  • Hyperglycaemia (high blood glucose)
  • Exercise
  • Dietary needs
  • Insulin administration
  • Emergency contact details

Encouraging independence in diabetes management

As you child gets older, fostering independence in diabetes management becomes crucial. By gradually involving your child in their care from a young age and providing age-appropriate responsibilities, you will empower them to take ownership of their health.

This will become all the more important when they transition to adult healthcare services during their adolescence.

Check out the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) resource: Moving on up – transitioning to adult health care services for more information.

Managing diabetes in children requires a holistic approach encompassing medical care, emotional support, and education, and HBF is here to help. 

How can HBF can help with diabetes management

  • Depending on your cover, HBF extras can pay benefits towards visits to the dentist, a dietitian, a podiatrist, an exercise physiologist, a physiotherapist, or a psychologist. Which can all play an important role in supporting your diabetes management plan.
  • Under HBF’s Healthy Living Programs, you can also claim a benefit toward a membership with Diabetes Australia.
  • HBF hospital cover may pay benefits for insulin pumps, as well as hospital treatments that may be required for diabetes (such as stabilisation of hypo- or hyperglycaemia).
  • Eligible HBF hospital members may also have access to The COACH Program, an evidence-based telephone coaching service to help you manage type 2 diabetes.


Healthdirect - Diabetes

Better Health Channel - Diabetes: issues for children and teenagers

Pregnancy, Birth and Baby - Diabetes in young children

Nemours Children's Health - What Is Type 1 Diabetes?