How to Teach Your Kids about Possible Diabetes Emergencies


Diabetes is a difficult thing to explain to anyone who doesn’t live it every day. It is hard enough to effectively prepare an adult for what to do in a diabetes emergency, but it’s a whole different ballgame preparing a child for a potential diabetes-related emergency.

If you have diabetes yourself and also have children, it is inevitable that your children will witness diabetes-related events, whether it be a severe low blood sugar or simple day-to-day routines. It is important to have ongoing discussions with your children about how diabetes affects your life—including the aspects that may seem scary to them.

Though it might be tough to approach the topic with your child, the benefits of teaching them early far outweigh the negatives.

Reasons to teach your child what to do in a diabetes emergency

A general understanding of your behaviors

The highs and lows (literally) of diabetes can be extreme. High blood sugar can cause sluggishness and irritability. Low blood sugar can cause panic, anxiety and again, irritability. Explaining what happens when you are experiencing a high or low blood sugar can alert your child of early symptoms so that they will be more equipped to help. It will also lessen the risk of these behaviors hurting their feelings or confusing them.

Strengthening their sense of responsibility and independence 

Teaching your child little things to do in order to assist you in the event of a diabetes emergency can help to build their confidence and establish independence. Some things you can teach them to do in case of a high or low blood sugar can include:

  • Going to a designated drawer or area that contains your low snacks and bringing you a juice box, some glucose tabs or fruit chews.
  • Allowing them to check your continuous glucose monitor (CGM) or to test your blood sugar on a glucometer.
  • Choosing adult family or friends to have on a speed dial or on your “favorites” list in your phone who your child will know to call in case of an emergency.
  • Teaching your child how to dial 911, and the correct wording to use to tell the operator what is going on.

Helping them feel strong enough to tackle the tough stuff

A particularly important thing to teach your child is how to use emergency glucagon. This may feel particularly overwhelming to show them, but a severe low blood sugar that requires assistance is a possibility for anyone who administers insulin. Ensuring the feel strong and prepared to respond to a severe low blood sugar can lower anxiety, while ensuring the know how to save your life if need be.

The new glucagon options are simple enough for a child to be able to learn and use. They include:

  • Glucagon pen – Gvoke HypoPen®: This is a premixed glucagon injection that you press against your thigh. The auto-inject device makes it quick and easy to use. It is also available in a prefilled syringe (PFS) or in a premixed vial.
  • Nasal glucagon – Baqsimi®: This is an emergency glucagon that’s administered through your nose as a nasal spray.
  • Glucagon pen – Zegalogue®: Also a premixed glucagon, available as an easy-to-use auto-inject device. It is also available in a PFS.

The potential for more advocacy among their friends

The more your child knows about your diabetes, the more they may discuss it with their friends and/or teachers. This might prepare even more children (and adults) if they have a loved one with diabetes, or if they will in the future.

What age to talk to your children about diabetes emergencies

There is no black and white answer for what age makes sense for your child to hear about what to do in a diabetes emergency, but a good rule of thumb may be to approach the topic with them when they begin to ask questions.

Children are naturally inquisitive, and will likely signal you when they want to know more, or if they can help.

Using what they know 

Explaining diabetes and the complications or emergencies that can sometimes come along for the ride might seem as if it would all go right over your child’s head, but if you use words and concepts that they are already familiar with to liken it to diabetes emergencies, they will be far less intimidated.

Your child may be familiar with other illnesses or instances that make people feel the symptoms of a high or low blood sugar, or they might be able to compare diabetes to an example of a toy that doesn’t work or something else that needs help to function properly. In this case, either insulin or glucose would be the aids that you need in order to be healthy.

Children are sensitive, thoughtful little humans. They will likely learn and understand quickly what to do in a diabetes emergency—they simply absorb it all a little differently than adults.

This content on diabetes treatment options was made possible with support from Xeris. Beyond Type 2 maintains full editorial control of all content published on our platforms.

WRITTEN BY Alexi Melvin, POSTED 11/19/21, UPDATED 10/03/22

Alexi Melvin serves as chair of the Leadership Council’s Content Committee. She is a journalist who has written for The San Francisco Chronicle, Beyond Type 1 and other digital publications. Alexi is also a voiceover actor and reiki master. In addition to her dedication to being a voice for people living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) everywhere, she has always been passionate about meditation and energy healing. Before getting her Bachelor of Arts degree at The New School University, she studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Institute. She hopes to continue her healing work, and to connect with other T1Ds through her travels and writing opportunities.