Page header image

Diabetes: High Blood Glucose (Hyperglycemia)

________________________________________________________________________

KEY POINTS

  • High blood glucose (sugar) means that the level of glucose in your child’s blood is higher than normal. If your child’s blood glucose runs too high for months or years, it can cause problems with your child’s heart, eyes, kidneys, nerves, and blood vessels.
  • Very high blood glucose can be a medical emergency. Your child may need to stay at the hospital to get blood glucose levels back to normal, to treat the cause of the high blood glucose, and to treat any problems caused by the high blood glucose such as dehydration.
  • Follow your child’s healthcare provider's directions carefully to keep your child’s blood glucose normal. Help your child to eat a variety of healthy foods, stay physically active as advised by your child’s provider, check blood glucose levels as often as recommended, and take medicine exactly as directed.

________________________________________________________________________

What is high blood glucose?

High blood glucose (sugar) means that the level of glucose in your child’s blood is higher than recommended. High blood glucose can be serious if it's not treated. If your child’s blood glucose runs too high over time (months or years), it can cause problems with the heart, eyes, kidneys, nerves, and blood vessels. A very high blood glucose can cause life-threatening problems.

The medical term for high blood glucose is hyperglycemia.

What is the cause?

Your child’s body breaks down some of the foods your child eats into glucose. The blood carries the glucose to the cells of the body. Your child needs the glucose in the cells for energy, but too much glucose in the blood is not good for your child’s health. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas, which is an organ in the upper belly. The body uses insulin to help move glucose from the blood into the cells. When your child’s body does not have enough insulin or has trouble using its own insulin, glucose cannot get into the cells and builds up in your child’s blood. Blood glucose that stays high is the main problem of diabetes.

Sometimes your child may have high blood glucose even though your child is taking diabetes medicine. This can happen for many reasons, but it always means that your child’s diabetes is not in good control. Some reasons why blood glucose might go too high are:

  • Not taking diabetes medicine at the right time or in the right amount
  • Taking medicines, such as steroids, for other medical problems
  • Taking in too many calories, eating too many carbohydrates, such as foods made mainly with glucose or white flour, or having too many high-sugar drinks in one meal or snack
  • Not getting enough physical activity because being physically active can help lower your child’s blood glucose level
  • Being under stress
  • Being sick, including colds, flu, an infected tooth, or a urinary tract infection, especially if your child has a fever
  • Having problems with the insulin your child taking, such as, if your child needs a different type of insulin or the insulin may not be working because it has not been stored properly
  • Having a problem with an insulin pump, if your child is using one, such as if the pump is turned off, the dose settings are wrong, or the catheter has come out or is blocked

What are the symptoms?

High blood glucose may not cause symptoms, especially if it is brief. However, if your child’s blood glucose gets very high and stays that high for a day or longer, your child may have symptoms. Symptoms may include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased thirst
  • Urinating a lot
  • Feeling tired

Very high blood glucose (600 mg/dL or higher) can cause coma and even death.

How is it diagnosed?

The level of glucose in your child’s blood can be measured with blood tests at home or at your healthcare provider’s office.

When your child has diabetes, glucose levels before and after meals will be based on your child’s age, type of diabetes, and medicines, as well as on individual goals set by your child’s healthcare provider.

A1C results may also be given as the eAG or estimated average glucose. You can use your child’s A1C results and the chart below to know what your child’s average blood glucose has been.


A1C  Estimated Average Glucose (eAG)
---------------------------------------------
 7    154 mg/dL
 8    183 mg/dL
 9    212 mg/dL
 10   240 mg/dL
 11   269 mg/dL
 12   298 mg/dL
---------------------------------------------

How is it treated?

Very high blood glucose can be a medical emergency. Ask your healthcare provider what a very high blood glucose would be for your child. Your child may need to stay at the hospital to get blood glucose levels back to normal, to treat the cause of the high blood glucose, and to treat any problems caused by the high blood glucose such as dehydration.

High blood glucose caused by medicines your child is taking usually goes away when your child stops taking the medicine. Never stop giving your child medicine without talking to your child’s healthcare provider. The provider may be able to change the type or amount of medicine your child takes. Depending on the medicine, it may take days to weeks for blood glucose to go back to the proper levels.

How can I take care of my child?

Follow your healthcare provider's directions carefully to keep your child’s blood glucose normal. This usually means your child needs to:

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods as recommended by your child’s healthcare provider. Ask for a referral to a dietitian if you are not sure what your child should be eating.
  • Stay physically active as advised by your child’s provider. Limit sitting time.
  • Take medicine exactly as directed, if any has been prescribed.
  • Check blood glucose as often as your child’s provider recommends and take blood glucose records to every checkup. This helps your provider adjust your child’s medicines.
  • Carry a medical ID such as a card or bracelet that says your child has diabetes.

Ask your healthcare provider:

  • When to call about a high blood glucose level
  • How to take care of your child if sick, because blood glucose is likely to be higher if your child is sick. Ask your child’s healthcare provider for a sick day plan.
  • 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.

Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2019-06-05
Last reviewed: 2019-05-22
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.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
Page footer image