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Diabetes: Types and Activity of Insulin

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KEY POINTS

  • Insulin is used to control blood sugar if you have diabetes.
  • There are 3 main types of insulin: fast-acting, intermediate-acting, and long-acting. Your healthcare provider may prescribe a combination of different types of insulin to match your child’s eating schedule and lifestyle.
  • Make sure you know how and when your child needs to take the medicine. Your child should not take more or less than he or she is supposed to take.
  • Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist what side effects the medicine may cause, and what you should do if your child has side effects.

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What is insulin used for?

Insulin is used to treat diabetes by controlling blood sugar. It is a hormone normally made by the pancreas, which is an organ in your upper belly. Your body uses insulin to help move sugar from the blood into the cells, where it is used for energy.

Children with diabetes have problems with insulin. Because of these problems, sugar cannot get into the cells. Instead, it stays in the blood. Too much sugar in the blood can damage the blood vessels and organs.

  • If your child has type 1 diabetes, he does not make insulin and needs to take insulin shots. Insulin cannot be taken as a pill because stomach acid destroys insulin.
  • If your child has type 2 diabetes, his body may make insulin, but not enough, or his body may not be able to use insulin well. Your child may be able to control his blood sugar levels through a healthy diet and exercise. Or he may need to take pills to help him make more insulin or to better use the insulin he does make. In some cases your child may need to take insulin.

Your child needs the right kind of insulin at the right times during the day. The amount and kind of insulin is very important. If your child takes too much insulin or takes it at the wrong time, your child could have a serious low blood sugar reaction. If your child doesn't take enough insulin, the body will not be able to use food for energy, sugar from digested food will stay in the blood, and the blood sugar will be too high.

How does it work?

Your child’s body needs insulin to move sugar from the blood into the cells, where it is burned for energy. The body cannot turn sugar into energy without insulin. If insulin is not available, sugar from digested food builds up in the blood.

There are 3 main types of insulin:

  • Fast acting insulin that starts to work in 10 to 15 minutes and lasts up to 4 hours
  • Intermediate acting insulin that starts to work in 1 to 2 hours and lasts up to 15 hours
  • Long acting insulin that starts to work in 1 to 2 hours and lasts 24 hours

Your child's healthcare provider may prescribe a combination of different types of insulin to match your child's eating schedule and lifestyle.

What else do I need to know about this medicine?

  • Follow the directions that come with your child’s medicine, including information about food. Make sure you know how and when your child needs to take the medicine. Your child should not take more or less than he or she is supposed to take.
  • Try to get all of your child’s prescriptions filled at the same place. Your pharmacist can help make sure that all of your child’s medicines are safe to take together.
  • Keep a list of your child’s medicines with you. List all of the prescription medicines, nonprescription medicines, supplements, natural remedies, and vitamins that your child takes. Tell all healthcare providers who treat your child about all of the products your child takes.
  • Many medicines have side effects. A side effect is a symptom or problem that is caused by the medicine. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist what side effects the medicine may cause and what you should do if your child has side effects.

If you have any questions, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for more information.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-03-25
Last reviewed: 2015-03-24
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.
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