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Diabetes: Infections



  • If your child has diabetes, your child may sometimes get infections.
  • If your child has an infection, your healthcare provider will prescribe antibiotic medicine or other medicine to treat the infection.
  • Because the infection may get worse more quickly if your child’s glucose (sugar) level is high, your child’s blood glucose level must be controlled.


What infections are common with diabetes?

If your child has diabetes, your child may get infections such as:

  • Infections caused by bacteria such as ear, sinus, bladder, or kidney infections, boils (infected lumps under the skin), styes (infected lumps on the eyelid), gum disease and other mouth infections, foot infections, or infected cuts and sores
  • Fungal infections such as thrush, athlete’s foot, ringworm, nail infections, or vaginal yeast infections

If your child gets an infection caused by a virus, such as the flu, your child is may have severe symptoms or problems.

Even a small cut, on your child’s foot for example, may not heal well and may become a serious, life or limb-threatening problem.

What is the cause?

Diabetes may cause more infections because:

  • High blood glucose levels seem to increase growth of some bacteria and yeast.
  • High blood glucose levels may make it harder for the immune system to fight infections.
  • Poor blood flow, especially to the feet and lower legs, can make it hard for the body to fight infection in even small scrapes and cuts.
  • Your child may not feel injuries to the feet, legs, or hands because of nerve damage and numbness. Without treatment the injuries may get infected.

What are the symptoms?

Depending on the type of infection and where it is in the body, symptoms may include:

  • Redness, swelling, and skin that feels hot to the touch
  • Itching
  • Rash
  • Red streaks that spread away from the wound or sore
  • Swollen and painful lumps or pus-filled sores
  • Painful urination or urinating more often
  • Fever
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Unusually high blood glucose levels

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine your child. Tests may include:

  • Tests of a sample of pus
  • A biopsy, which is the removal of a small sample of infected tissue for testing
  • Blood and urine tests
  • X-rays

How is it treated?

Your healthcare provider will prescribe antibiotic medicine or other medicine to treat the infection. Because the infection may get worse more quickly if blood glucose level is high, your child’s blood glucose level must be controlled. Besides medicine to treat the infection, your child’s treatment may include IV fluids and insulin to quickly get blood glucose levels under control, even if your child doesn’t normally use insulin. Vomiting or diarrhea may cause low blood glucose levels, especially if your child isn't able to eat. Infections can rapidly increase blood glucose levels. Your child may need to stay in the hospital or be checked by your child’s healthcare provider often.

The most important way to prevent the need for amputation or life-threatening problems is to follow your provider’s instructions for good control of your child’s blood glucose level.

How can I take care of my child?

Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your child’s healthcare provider. In addition:

  • Ask your child’s healthcare provider how to care for the infected area. For example, your child’s provider may recommend keeping the infected area up on pillows above the level of your child’s heart when your child sits or lies down to help decrease swelling and pain.

Ask your child’s provider:

  • How and when you will get your child’s test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities your child should avoid and when your child can return to normal activities
  • How to take care of your child at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

How can I help prevent infections?

  • Keep your child’s blood glucose level under good control.
  • Follow your child’s provider’s instructions for good skin care.
  • Make sure that your child never goes barefoot, not even in the house. Even minor cuts can become seriously infected.
  • Examine your child’s skin each day to make sure there are no reddened areas, cuts, or scrapes that could become infected.
  • If your child smokes or uses e-cigarettes, try to help your child quit. Smoking causes poor blood flow and slows the healing of wounds. Talk to your child’s healthcare provider about ways to quit smoking.
  • Stay up to date with the recommended immunizations (shots) for your child including flu and COVID-19. Ask your healthcare provider about any other vaccines your child or your family may need.
Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2022.1 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2021-08-23
Last reviewed: 2022-02-05
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.
© 2022 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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