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Diabetes and Your Child: The Hemoglobin A1C Test

What is the A1C test?

The A1C is a simple blood test. It measures your child’s average blood sugar level over a period of 2 to 3 months. This is helpful because it tells how well your child's blood sugar is controlled. The better your child's blood sugar is controlled, the less likely he will develop complications of diabetes. Other tests your child may have include fasting blood glucose, glucose tolerance test, or random blood glucose test only show blood sugar levels at a specific time. These tests don't give much information about control.

A1C works by measuring the amount of glucose that sticks to a protein called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is found in red blood cells. The more glucose stuck to the red blood cells, the higher your child’s average blood sugar has been.

An A1C result is given as a percentage. Most people without diabetes have an A1C level of 5.7% or lower.

Red blood cell with glucose molecules stuck to it.
Healthy red blood cells have some glucose stuck to them.

Red blood cell with many glucose molecules stuck to it.
When your child has high blood sugar, much more glucose sticks to the red blood cells. This is what the A1c test measures.

Your child’s target A1C number

Your child’s healthcare provider will tell you what your child’s target A1C number should be. It will depend on his or her age, overall health, and other factors. Your child will likely need an A1C test about once every 3 months. In general, the A1C goal for children and adolescents is less than 7.5%.

Resources

For more information about diabetes, visit these websites:

  • American Diabetes Association www.diabetes.org

  • Children with Diabetes www.childrenwithdiabetes.org

  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation www.jdrf.org

  • American Association of Diabetes Educators www.aadenet.org

  • American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists www.aace.com

  • National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse www.diabetes.niddk.nih.gov

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