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Type 1 essentials – 10 things to know after your child’s diagnosis

A type 1 diabetes diagnosis can happen quickly and it may feel overwhelming at first. We’ll help you find the information and advice you need to treat your child’s type 1 and manage it around their everyday life and your health and wellbeing.
Content last reviewed and updated: 08.12.2023

What is type 1 diabetes?

When a child has type 1 diabetes it means that they can’t make insulin anymore. Insulin is a hormone that controls levels of glucose in the blood.

Type 1 an autoimmune condition that happens when your immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin (these are called beta cells).

When someone eats or drinks, sugar (called glucose) goes into their blood. In someone without type 1, insulin moves the sugar from their blood into the cells of their body so that they can use it as energy. If you develop type 1 diabetes, your body doesn’t make the insulin you need to turn glucose into energy. So people with type 1 have to inject insulin into their body. Find out more about type 1 diabetes.


Why did my child get type 1 diabetes?

We don’t yet know exactly what causes type 1 diabetes.

What we do know is, type 1 diabetes isn’t caused by poor diet or an unhealthy lifestyle. In fact, it isn’t caused by anything that you or your child did or didn’t do, and there was nothing you could have done to prevent it. Find out more about the causes of type 1.


Is type 1 diabetes hereditary? Will my other children get it?

We know that certain genes put people at a greater risk of developing type 1 diabetes but that is not the only factor involved. Scientists are also investigating the environmental factors that may play a role.

We can’t tell you whether your other children will develop type 1 with any certainty, although there are screening tests that can test for the antibodies that increase the risk of a child developing type 1.


What is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition that’s caused by the immune system mistakenly attacking the cells that make insulin (beta cells). It’s treated using insulin.

Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes either don’t make enough insulin or don’t make insulin that the body can use properly. The cells in the body become resistant to insulin, meaning that they need a greater amount of insulin to keep blood glucose levels within a normal range. Type 2 can usually be managed through diet, exercise, and self-monitoring blood glucose, at least in the first few years following diagnosis. Learn more about the differences.


What’s the treatment for type 1?

Type 1 diabetes is treated by putting a synthetic insulin into the body, either using an insulin pen or insulin pump.

If your child is using an insulin pen, they will inject long-acting insulin in the morning which releases over a 24 hour period (known as basal insulin). They will also use a fast-acting insulin to cover the glucose they eat and drink during the day (known as bolus insulin).

If your child uses an insulin pump, they will only use fast-acting insulin but this will be fed through their pump 24 hours a day.


Is there a cure for type 1 diabetes?

There is no cure for type 1 diabetes yet, but we are funding research across the world in the race to make type 1 diabetes a thing of the past. Find out more about our cure research.


How do you manage type 1 diabetes?

In very simple terms, you and your child will need try and keep the amount of glucose in your child’s blood from going too high (called a hyper) or too low (called a hypo).

This means that you will have to measure your child’s glucose levels to see how much insulin you need to inject, to help get that balance.

There are different ways to measure glucose levels. Your child will also be given a blood glucose meter when they’re first diagnosed, which takes a reading from a drop of blood that you draw from their finger.

They may also be given a flash sensor at diagnosis or shortly after. This is a sensor that is attached to the upper arm. You then scan the sensor with a smartphone or receiver to get a glucose reading.
Find out more about managing glucose levels and type 1 diabetes technology for children.


What can my child eat?

Children with type 1 don’t have to follow any specific diet. What’s important is that you know how many carbohydrates are in the food they’re eating, so you can give them the right amount of insulin. This is known as carb counting.

This may seem daunting, but over time it can become second nature, especially if your child has favourite foods they eat often.

Find out more about carb counting for a child with type 1 diabetes.


Who do I go to for help?

You should have regular appointments with your child’s Diabetes Healthcare Team which is made up of healthcare professionals who will help you manage different aspects of your child’s type 1. You can also contact them between appointments if you have any questions or concerns.

It’s good to connect with other parents who have children with type 1 because they will understand what you are going through and will be able to share their experience, help and advice. You can do this by joining online forums and social media groups or coming to our information events and fundraising events.


Can my child still go to pre-school, school and university with type 1?

Yes they can. It takes a little bit of extra preparation and planning, but by working in partnership with the school and your Diabetes Healthcare Team, your child will be supported through their school years, and their type 1 will not impact their education and enjoyment of school. Order a free copy of our School Pack for parents and teachers.

Find out what nurseries and schools need to put in place to support your child and how to deal with exam stress and preparing for university.

Diagnosis stories

Further support and information

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Type 1 Diabetes Discovery magazine

Type 1 Discovery magazine

Type 1 Discovery is our 24-page magazine, giving you the latest news, events, features and research updates about type 1 diabetes and JDRF, three times a year.

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The type 1 community

Connect with people who understand what you’re going through. Explore social media groups, online forums, community events and read shared experiences.

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A you guy shown with type 1 technology on his arm. JDRF UK YouTube type 1 diabetes technology video playlist where we discuss apps for managing type 1.

YouTube playlists

Our YouTube channel includes tech explainer videos, Discovery event videos on many type 1 topics, and films of people with type 1 discussing tech.

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