Checking your blood sugar levels is a really important part of taking care of diabetes. Why? Because knowing what those levels are will help you keep your blood sugar under control — something that helps you feel good and keeps you healthy.

Most kids with diabetes check their blood sugar levels before breakfast, before lunch, before dinner, and then again at bedtime. Some kids need to check more often. Your doctor will let you and your parents know when and how often you need to do your checks. You also might need to check your blood sugar during exercise and when you're sick.

You might wonder why checks are needed in these situations. It's because food, medicine, exercise, and illness all can affect blood sugar levels. Your doctor will tell you and your parents what to do if any of these affect your glucose levels.

The Daily Routine

You probably have a routine for checking your blood sugar levels. You might stick with that plan for a long time. But if something changes — like you get sick or join the soccer team — you'll probably have to check more often.

People who use an insulin pump or who need to control their blood sugar levels very closely also need to check their levels more often. Sometimes your mom or dad might wake you up in the middle of the night to check your blood sugar levels. You probably won't even remember it the next day! They're just checking to make sure your level isn't getting too low or too high while you're sleeping.

How Does It Work?

Blood sugar levels can be tested at home or at school using a blood glucose meter, which is a computerized device that measures the amount of glucose in a sample of your blood and displays it on a screen.

To get a sample of your blood, a small needle called a lancet is used to poke the skin (usually on a finger or on your arm) to get one drop of blood. The drop of blood is placed on a testing strip that goes into the blood glucose meter. Within a few seconds, the blood glucose reading appears on a screen.

When you're first diagnosed with diabetes, your mom or dad may help you test your blood sugar levels and keep track of the results. As you get older, you'll learn how to use the blood glucose meter and keep track of your blood sugar levels on your own.

You or your doctor may want to get an even closer look at how your blood sugar levels change throughout the day and night. Wearable devices that measure blood sugar levels every 5 minutes are available. They let you download a computer printout of your blood sugar profile so you, your parents, and your doctor can look at it.

Does It Hurt?

Checking blood sugar levels is kind of like poking yourself with a pin. You'll feel a pinch, but it's over quickly.

Scientists keep working on ways to make finger pricks less painful. For example, some blood glucose meters can use blood taken from the skin of your arm, which might be a less sensitive spot. Your diabetes health care team will help you and your parents figure out which way of getting a blood sample is best for you.

How Do I Keep Track?

Even though blood glucose meters can remember your blood sugar readings, it's still important to write down your results — and to write down all of them, not just the normal ones.

Writing down all your results in a special notebook can help you keep track. You or your mom or dad might need to write down other info, too, such as what you were eating or how active you were when you got that result.

And with some blood glucose meters, you can print out or download your blood sugar readings to a computer screen. This can be a helpful and fun way to look at how your levels are running at different times of day. This information will help you learn more about how certain situations — like eating or exercising — affect your diabetes.

Your doctor will also check your blood sugar with a hemoglobin A1c test. The test shows what your average blood sugar levels were over the 2 or 3 months before the test. This helps doctors know if you need to make changes in your diabetes care plan.

The more information you, your parents, and your diabetes health care team have, the easier it is to keep your blood sugar levels under control. And when they're under control, diabetes isn't controlling you — you're controlling it!

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2019 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.

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