Hypoglycemia is when blood sugar levels fall below a range normal for that individual. Common symptoms of hypoglycemia in children include shakiness, sweating, and irritability.

Hypoglycemia is also called low blood sugar.

Glucose is the primary energy source for the body. When levels drop too low, it can lead to symptoms such as fatigue and shakiness. Maintaining blood sugar levels is important for a child’s growth and development.

Hypoglycemia can occur in people living with diabetes when glucose-lowering treatments drop the glucose level too much. Type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes, is a form of diabetes that can occur at any age but often presents in childhood.

While hypoglycemia is more common in those living with diabetes, children who do not have diabetes can also experience low blood sugar levels.

This article explores the various aspects of hypoglycemia in children, including symptoms, causes, and treatment.

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Hypoglycemia is low blood sugar levels in the blood. It can occur in children when blood sugar levels drop below the range that is normal for them.

The typical range of glucose levels is between 70 and 140 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Many factors can influence these levels. For example, they can vary slightly depending on whether the child is taking a particular medication or if they have recently eaten a meal high in carbohydrates or sugars.

Children living with conditions that affect blood sugar, such as type 1 diabetes, may have different target ranges of glucose levels than children without these conditions.

The symptoms of hypoglycemia can vary between children. The most common symptoms include:

  • irritability and mood changes
  • pale skin
  • sweating
  • shakiness and tremors
  • fatigue and weakness
  • difficulty concentrating
  • headaches and dizziness
  • blurry vision
  • hunger

In severe cases, hypoglycemia can lead to seizures and loss of consciousness.

Older children may be able to communicate their symptoms. For younger children unable to do so, it is crucial for parents, caregivers, and educators to be aware of these symptoms and take appropriate action to address the child’s condition.

Read on to learn more about the signs of hypoglycemia in newborns.

Several factors may cause a child to experience hypoglycemia. Children living with diabetes may experience hypoglycemia for reasons such as:

  • taking insulin at the incorrect time
  • taking the wrong type of insulin
  • making a mistake with their glucose monitoring
  • consuming too few carbohydrates
  • experiencing vomiting or diarrhea

Children not living with diabetes can also experience hypoglycemia. This may be due to:

  • Insufficient food intake: Skipping meals or fasting may result in a child not consuming enough carbohydrates, which can lead to hypoglycemia. A person living with an eating disorder may also be at risk of experiencing hypoglycemia.
  • Pancreatic issues: Children who have undergone pancreas surgery or who are living with a tumor on their pancreas may experience hypoglycemia due to insulin imbalances.
  • Taking certain medications: Certain medications may cause a child to experience hypoglycemia, particularly if they are living with kidney failure, due to how the kidneys break down these medications.
  • Liver or kidney problems: Living with hepatitis or kidney conditions may result in a child experiencing hypoglycemia due to how these organs can metabolize medications.
  • Problems with insulin: Conditions such as hyperinsulinism can cause the body to produce too much insulin, which can cause hypoglycemia.
  • Problems with metabolism: Some children may have genetic conditions that affect the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, which can lead to hypoglycemia.

Diagnosing hypoglycemia typically involves a combination of clinical evaluation and laboratory tests.

A healthcare professional first checks the child’s medical history and may conduct a physical examination. They will likely order a blood test to measure blood sugar levels.

For children not living with diabetes, a healthcare professional may check for an underlying disorder. This may include measuring metabolic fuels, such as blood glucose, ketones, and hormone levels, while the child is experiencing an episode of hypoglycemia.

A healthcare professional may admit the child to a hospital to take part in a fasting study. This study aims to reproduce a hypoglycemic episode to allow the healthcare professional to collect blood samples.

Treating hypoglycemia in children involves returning and maintaining blood sugar levels to a normal range.

If a child is conscious and can consume sugars, it is advisable to give them fast-acting carbohydrates that can help return their glucose levels to a normal range. This may include oral glucose followed by a snack of starchy carbohydrates or formula for infants.

In severe cases of hypoglycemia, when a child may be unconscious, medical professionals may administer dextrose intravenously (through an IV) or glucagon via an intramuscular injection.

Parents and caregivers of children with known risk factors for hypoglycemia, such as diabetes, can work closely with healthcare professionals to develop a comprehensive treatment plan. This plan may include regular monitoring of blood sugar levels, dietary adjustments, and insulin management if applicable.

With prompt and appropriate treatment, a child will unlikely experience any significant complications.

In cases where a child experiences a severe or prolonged episode of untreated hypoglycemia, they may experience severe complications, such as:

  • brain injury due to the lack of energy reaching the brain
  • seizures
  • death

Evidence also suggests that frequent episodes of hypoglycemia in childhood increase the risk of long-term neurological issues, such as epilepsy and severe mental impairments.

It is crucial to seek medical attention if a child experiences frequent or severe hypoglycemic episodes to prevent these complications.

Preventing hypoglycemia in children depends on the cause.

Preventive methods often involve a combination of lifestyle and dietary measures. Tips to help caregivers reduce the risk of hypoglycemic episodes can include:

  • Establishing regular mealtimes: Ensure the child eats balanced meals at regular intervals.
  • Providing healthy snacks: Offer nutritious snacks between meals to maintain stable blood sugar levels.
  • Monitoring physical activity: Balance physical activity with adequate carbohydrate intake to prevent excessive glucose depletion.
  • Medical checkups: If a child is experiencing hypoglycemia, it is important that they visit a healthcare professional to check for any underlying health conditions.

Hypoglycemia in children occurs when a child’s blood glucose levels drop below a level that is normal for them. Common symptoms include irritability, shakiness, dizziness, and hunger.

To help prevent hypoglycemia, it is advisable for caregivers to regularly monitor the child’s blood sugar levels, watch for symptoms, and attend regular medical checkups.

Recognizing the symptoms, understanding the causes, and implementing preventive measures are essential steps for caregivers to help manage hypoglycemia in children.