After your child has a meal or snack, his body breaks nutrients down into a sugar known as glucose, the energy source for all body cells. If some of those glucose molecules aren’t needed by the body cells, they stay in his bloodstream and attach themselves permanently to the hemoglobin in his red blood cells. According to the Children with Diabetes website, a laboratory blood test known as glycated hemoglobin level, abbreviated as HbA1c or just A1c, measures the percentage of his red blood cells that have glucose bound to them.
According to Children with Diabetes, red blood cells live about 90 days in a child’s body. Since the A1c test measures the percentage of your child’s red blood cells that have glucose bound to them, it gives you a good picture of how much extra glucose she’s ingested over the past three months.
According to the University of California, San Francisco Children's Hospital, most children have an A1c between 4 percent and 6 percent. If your child has diabetes, his A1c readings will typically be higher than this baseline.
According to the American Diabetes Association, doctors should consider your child’s age when setting goals for her A1c readings. The ADA says children under 6 years old who have diabetes should have an A1c goal of 7.5 percent to 8.5 percent. Six- to 12-year-olds should aim for A1c values under 8 percent, and 13- to 19-year-olds should stay under 7.5 percent.
According to Children with Diabetes, two children with the same A1c reading may have very different blood glucose fluctuations over time. One child may have lots of high and low values that produce an A1c of 7.0 percent, while the second might have moderate, consistent glucose levels that still produce an A1c of 7.0 percent. When you’re monitoring your youngster’s diabetes, it’s important to pay attention to both the A1c and the daily glucose levels that you measure at home with your child's glucose meter.
If your child has diabetes, his doctor will order regular A1c tests to help plan his diet, exercise, oral medications and insulin doses. The goal is to maintain a low A1c without causing dangerous episodes of low blood glucose.
If your child’s diabetes is under good control, the ADA says, he should have an A1c test twice a year. According to the University of California, San Francisco Children’s Hospital, A1c readings can vary from one lab to the next, so it’s a good idea to select one lab and stick with it.