Pediatric Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a condition that develops when the body is not able to produce enough insulin. Without insulin, glucose cannot be used for energy. Instead the body will use fat for the energy it needs.


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What is Pediatric Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)?

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) occurs with elevated blood glucose AND urinary ketones. High ketones are acids that form when the body burns fat for energy and when there is not enough insulin.

It is important to test your child's urine when blood glucose is equal to or greater than 250 and when your child is not feeling well or is sick.

What are ketones?

Ketones are acid molecules that develop with when the body is starving. These can be dangerous with type 1 diabetes and can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, a diabetes emergency.

What are the signs and symptoms of Pediatric Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)?

With similar symptoms to common illnesses, DKA can be hard to detect but specific clues can help separate the two. That’s why it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of DKA, to help recognize it early and ensure timely, targeted therapy.

The five primary signs and symptoms for diabetic ketoacidosis include:

  • Frequent/increased urinationHigh blood sugar levels may cause your child to urinate more than usual. Check a urine sample for glucose and ketones to help determine if DKA is present or not.
  • Increased thirst - In response to frequent urination, your child may feel dehydrated and more thirsty than normal.
  • Increased hunger - With high blood glucose levels, extra glucose spills into your child’s urine. This results in losing calories when your child urinates, potentially leaving your child extra hungry.
  • Weight lossWeight loss can occur over many weeks leading up to a diagnosis of diabetes.
  • Flu-like symptoms - All of these signs may lead to flu-like symptoms such as vomiting/nausea, dry mouth, abdominal pain and some symptoms unique to DKA, like blurry vision and a fruity odor to your child’s breath. Always seek medical attention if your child has these symptoms.

Additional signs and symptoms may include:

What are the causes of Pediatric Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)?

  • Missed injections
  • Illness/stress

How is Pediatric Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) treated?

  • 6 – 12 oz water every 20 minutes
  • Retest ketones until negative
  • Insulin therapy
  • Contact your endocrinologist and/or primary care provider

Pediatric Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) Doctors and Providers