When to Check Blood Sugar Levels

Check your child's blood sugar level at the following times:

  • Before meals and bedtime, a minimum of four times a day.
  • If you suspect your child has a low blood sugar level.
  • Before and after your child exercises.
  • When your child is ill.
  • Two hours after the start of a meal, if results from before the meal don't match HbA1c.
  • During the night. This is particularly important if your child had a low blood sugar level during the day, exercised more than usual, made a change in the insulin dose or has been ill.

How to Check Blood Sugar Levels

A health care professional will teach you and your child how to properly use a blood glucose meter.

  • Clean hands with soap and water. Make sure the finger is dry before obtaining the blood sample — wet fingers can alter the value.
  • Prick the side of the fingertip. The forearm also can be pricked with certain meters using a lancet device. Do not use the forearm if you suspect a low blood sugar or when the blood sugar is rapidly changing, such as after meals or exercise.
  • Insert strip into meter.
  • Obtain a drop of blood.
  • Apply the drop of blood to a test strip.
  • Read the result and enter it in a logbook.

Bring the meter and logbook to all doctor visits.

Suggested Glucose Target Ranges

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) published a position statement in 2005 on the standard of care for children with type 1 diabetes. Below is a table with the ADA's recommendations on age-specific blood sugar goal ranges. Blood glucose goals should be higher than those listed in the table for children who have frequent cases of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels) and don't experience the associated signs and symptoms.

Your child's diabetes health care team will recommend an individualized target range for blood sugar levels. The general goal is to maintain as normal as possible blood sugar levels without causing frequent low blood sugar. Research has shown that in children under the age of 6, frequent, severe low blood sugar levels may result in neuro-cognitive deficits — problems related to intellectual ability — so target ranges are higher in this age group.

Adolescents should strive to achieve similar target ranges as adults. However, this may be difficult because of higher hormone levels, such as growth hormones, which counteract the effects of insulin. If your child's sugar levels are in the ranges listed below at least 50 percent of the time, then blood sugar control is considered reasonable. If sugars levels exceed the range more than 50 percent of the time, then sugar control is not optimal and the diabetes plan should be changed.

Plasma Blood Glucose Goal Range

Values by age (years) Before Meals Bedtime/overnight AIC
Toddlers and preschoolers
(under age 6)
100-180 mg/dl 110-200 mg/dl — 7.5 to 8.5 percent
School age (6–12 years) 90-180 mg/dl 100-180 mg/dl — less than 8 percent
Adolescents and young adults (13–19 years) 90-130 mg/dl 90-150 mg/dl — less than 7.5 percent