Symptoms of diabetes in toddlers

Updated March 23, 2017

Diabetes is serious, especially in a toddler. Because he can't reliably say how he feels, it is up to his parents to see the symptoms he is experiencing and get medical care so he can be diagnosed quickly. If his diabetes goes undiagnosed, he could become very ill.


A toddler with diabetes still eats normally. Her body breaks down sugars in her food, and the sugar is carried to the cells of her body. However, her pancreas cannot make insulin. As a result, the sugar can't move into the cells of her body, depriving those cells of energy. Sugar continues to build in her blood, but she is very tired. Her kidneys filter the excess sugar out of her blood, but the process does not work correctly. Her kidneys excrete the excess sugar through her urine, and the water in her body is also excreted.

Early Symptoms

A toddler with diabetes will experience frequent urination in large amounts, extreme thirst, dehydration, weakness, weight loss and increased appetite. Depending on how young he is, he might progress to more serious symptoms more quickly than an older child.

Related Symptoms

If a toddler with diabetes is still in diapers, she might have a fungus-related diaper rash. Yeast, a main component of fungus, thrives in the high-sugar environment of a diabetic child's urine. She also might develop yeast infections in her vagina. This may be more evident in an older female child, with the itching and vaginal discharge common for yeast infections.

Serious Symptoms

A toddler displaying the more serious symptoms of diabetes will complain of stomach aches; he also might be nauseated and vomit. His parents will notice that he is breathing heavily and rapidly; this is called Kussmaul breathing. Ketoacidosis is one of the most serious symptoms of diabetes: The child may lose consciousness and could die if not seen by a doctor. The doctor can easily diagnose ketoacidosis by smelling the child's breath, because it will smell like acetone. Once the doctor has diagnosed this syndrome, he will order intravenous fluid and start the child on insulin.


If a diabetic child is undiagnosed, her body eventually will start to break down body fat and proteins; she will lose weight. When this process begins, her body produces ketones; her kidneys try to rid her body of this substance, but they become overwhelmed. At this point, she can have stomach aches, vomit and start breathing heavily. This is one way her body tries to get rid of the excess ketones.

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About the Author

Genevieve Van Wyden began writing in 2007. She has written for “Tu Revista Latina” and owns three blogs. She has worked as a CPS social worker, gaining experience in the mental-health system. Van Wyden earned her Bachelor of Arts in journalism from New Mexico State University in 2006.