Subscribe to the free KidsGrowth weekly email newsletter by entering your email address below.
Advertising links will direct you off of the KidsGrowth Web site. KidsGrowth is neither responsible for nor does it necessarily endorse the privacy practices, content or products of these sites.
|Quick reference medical handouts used
by Pediatric offices
Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar) in Children
Hypoglycemia refers to low blood sugar, or more specifically, a lower than
normal blood glucose (sugar) level. It is rarely encountered in pediatric
practice outside of the newborn period, where it is a relatively common place
event. Hypoglycemia is a concern since the brain depends on blood sugar as its
main source of fuel.Too little glucose can impair the brain's ability to
function. Severe or prolonged hypoglycemia may result in seizures and serious
A random blood sugar test is generally worthless
in diagnosing hypoglycemia. Even a fasting morning blood sugar is usually not
helpful. Only a timed series of tests after a standardized sugar meal (glucose
tolerance test) will allow the diagnosis of hypoglycemia to be made with
The Symptoms of Hypoglycemia (Low Blood
Sugar) in Children
The symptoms caused by low blood sugar come from
two sources and may resemble other medical conditions.
- The first symptoms are caused by the release
of epinephrine from the nervous system. these include sweating, pale skin
trembling, rapid heart rate, a feeling of anxiety, nervousness, weakness,
hunger, nausea and vomiting.
- Lowering of lowering the
brain's glucose causes: headache, changes in vision, lethargy, ,restlessness, inability to concentrate
or pay attention, mental confusion,
sleepiness, stupor,and personality changes.
The Causes of Hypoglycemia (Low Blood
Sugar) in Children
- Insulin reaction in a child with
Diabetes Probably the most common form of low blood after the newborn
period is a complication of diabetes known as an "insulin reaction." The
causes of this condition are: the child receives too much insulin, the
child misses a meal or is too sick from another illness to eat, the youngster
eats too little food as compared to the amount of insulin taken, and more
exercise than normal
- Hyperinsulinism. Most cases of hyperinsulinism
(over production of insulin) occur as a result of abnormal cell development of
the special "beta" cells in the pancreas that secrete insulin or from a mass
in the pancreas. Some children are also born with genetic errors in their
metabolism that can lead to hypoglycemia.
- Reactive Hypoglycemia refers to
an quick fall in the blood glucose after a meal, especially a meal rich in
carbohydrates. Excessive insulin is produced by the pancreas when it is
"tricked" by all the sugar in circulation into producing enough insulin for a
much larger meal than was actually consumed. This excess insulin drives the
blood sugar below the normal level.
- Hypoglycemia in the Newborn. Neonatal
hypoglycemia is a common problem encountered by both term and preterm infants.
It can be either symptomatic or asymptomatic. Prolonged hypoglycemia may
result in permanent neurologic impairment, seizures, and even death. Signs and
Symptoms of hypoglycemia in the newborn are nonspecific and include:
jitteriness, irritability, lethargy, seizures, apnea (periodic cessation in
breathing) difficulty breathing and grunting while breathing. A number of
factors cause ;ow blood sugar in the newborn:
- During the pregnancy, the mother's blood
sugar is persistently high (gestational diabetes) , the fetus' pancreas
assists in controlling the excess blood sugar by producing extra insulin. When
the infant is born, it no longer gets the mother's glucose, but still produces
large amounts of insulin, which drives the infant's blood sugar down to
- Small for gestational age or
growth-restricted babies may little sugar stored in their liver and once the
infant is born, no longer gets mother's glucose
- Similarly, Premature babies, especially those with low birth weights, who
often have limited sugar stored in the liver or an immature liver function.
Treatment for hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar)
For children with diabetes, the goal of treatment is to maintain a blood
sugar level that is appropriate for each child. This involves testing blood
sugar often, learning to recognize oncoming symptoms, and treating the condition
quickly, based on instructions given by your child's physician. To treat low
blood sugar immediately the child should eat or drink something that has sugar
in it, such as orange juice, milk, or a hard candy.
For children who do not have diabetes, treatment for hypoglycemia may
- avoiding foods high in carbohydrates
- eating smaller meals more frequently
- frequent snacks
- eating a variety of healthy foods
- regular exercise
Children who have hyperinsulinism may require treatment with medications to
decrease the production of insulin the body. In more serious cases, the child
may have to undergo surgery to remove the pancreas.
As a reminder, this information should not be relied on as
medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice of your childs pediatrician.
Please read our full disclaimer.