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Diabetes and Your Child: The 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 shows how well your child's blood sugar is controlled. The better your child's blood sugar is controlled, the less likely they will have complications from diabetes. Your child may have other tests such as fasting blood glucose, glucose tolerance test, or random blood glucose test. But these tests only show blood sugar levels at that moment. They don't show how well your child's blood sugar is controlled over time.

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

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 your child's age, overall health, and other factors. The A1C goal for children and teens is less than 7.5%. Your child will likely need an A1C test every 3 months. You will still need to check your child's blood sugar several times a day. Tell the healthcare provider if the daily blood sugar results don't match the A1C result.

Where to learn more

For more information about diabetes, visit these websites:

  • American Diabetes Association  www.diabetes.org

  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation www.jdrf.org

  • American Association of Diabetes Educators  www.aadenet.org

  • American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists  www.aace.com

  • Endocrine Society www.endocrine.org/topics/diabetes

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

© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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