With new research and medical advances, young people with diabetes have a brighter and healthier future. Schools can help students check and maintain appropriate blood sugar levels as well as educate school staff about the importance of effective diabetes management during the school day. School staff and students can help prevent or delay diabetes-related complications with the correct information and tools. Additional information from the experts is available below.


From the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse
A service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), NIH

  • Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in school-aged children, affecting about 1 in every 400 to 500 young people less than 20 years of age.
  • Signs of diabetes include: excessive thirst, frequent urination, excessive hunger or fatigue, unexplained weight loss, slow healing sores, dry, itchy skin, blurred vision, numbness or tingling in the feet.
  • Long-term complications include heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, and lower limb amputations. Although there is no cure, the disease can be managed and complications delayed or prevented. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/diabetes/
  • Two types of diabetes affect young people. Type 1 (see box) or juvenile diabetes has historically affected children. Type 2 (see box) is more common in adults but has been increasing among children and teens due to decreased physical activity and an increase in consumption of high-calorie foods rich in saturated fats.
  • Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes must be managed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to prevent serious health consequences. http://ndep.nih.gov/
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the pancreas no longer makes insulin because the body’s immune system has attacked and destroyed the cells that produce insulin. Insulin is essential to the body because it delivers sugar in the blood to the cells of the body so that the cells can use the sugar as fuel. To survive people with type 1 diabetes must receive insulin by injection or a pump. Treatments also include eating the right foods, exercising regularly, taking aspirin daily (for some), and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol. For more information, visit www.diabetes.org/type-1-diabetes.jsp


Type 2 diabetes usually begins with insulin resistance, a condition one step away from diabetes in which fat, muscle, and liver cells do not use insulin properly. At first, the pancreas keeps up with the added demand by producing more insulin. In time, however, the pancreas loses its ability to secrete enough insulin in response to meals. Treatment includes using diabetes medicines, making wise food choices, exercising regularly, taking aspirin daily, and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol. For more information, visit www.diabetes.org/type-2-diabetes.jsp

Things to keep in mind for school-age children

From the American Diabetes Association

    • Encourage all children to be active, eat healthy foods, and maintain a healthy weight.
    • Foods that are low in fat, salt, and sugar and high in fiber such as beans, fruits, vegetables, and grains help keep blood glucose in a desirable range. For more information on desirable blood sugar range, visit http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/type1and2/what.htm#6
    • Glucose, or sugar, is the brain’s principle fuel. When blood sugar is too high or too low, research indicates that mental capacity, such as memory function, decreases, which inhibits children’s learning.
    • To ensure appropriate care at school, parents should meet with school officials including the school nurse (if one is present at school) to develop an Individualized School Healthcare Plan (ISHP) or a Diabetes Medical Management Plan for their child.
  • To maintain appropriate blood glucose levels, children should: (1) follow their meal plan, (2) get regular exercise, (3) take their diabetes medicine, and (4) check their blood glucose as often as their provider recommends.
  • For more advice on what families and others can do, visit www.ndep.nih.gov/diabetes/youth/youth_FS.htm#Family

Things for schools to keep in mind

The National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) and the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) have posted guidelines to help schools help students manage their diabetes. The following points are adapted from that guidance.

  • Both high and low blood glucose levels affect the student’s ability to learn and endanger the student’s health. Glucose levels should be as close to the desired range as possible for optimal learning and during academic testing.
  • Therefore, at school, students must have access to glucose monitoring equipment, oral or injectable medications including insulin and glucagon, nutritional supplements such as snacks and a fast acting source of glucose, knowledge of the equipment used in their diabetes management (syringes, insulin pen, insulin pump, etc.), a documentation system for blood glucose readings and insulin dosage, and access to a bathroom.
  • Managing diabetes at school is most effective when the entire school community is involved — school nurses, teachers, counselors, coaches, parents, medical home, and students.

For more information:


Help for kids and parents

American Diabetes Association. Wisdom Kit for Kids and Parents.

Help for school staff

National Diabetes Program. www.ndep.nih.gov
Helping the Student with Diabetes Succeed: A Guide for School Personnel.

NASN. Position Statement: School Nurse Role in Care and Management of the Child with Diabetes in the School Setting. Adopted November 2001.

Help with research and background information

National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Diabetes Public Health Resource.

Maternal and Child Health Library. Knowledge Path: Diabetes in Children and Adolescents.

American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE)

Help in other languages

Diabetes Prevention Series. [Spanish version]

Information for communities with higher risk of type 2 diabetes