Diabetes and Your Child: The A1c Test

Diabetes and Your Child: The A1c Test

You are using a blood glucose meter to track your child’s blood sugar readings every day. This helps you make adjustments to your child’s treatment plan. But you also need to know if your child’s blood sugar level is healthy over time. An A1c (glycated hemoglobin) test will help.

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. It 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 in the red blood cells, the higher your child’s average blood sugar has been.

What Does the Result Mean?

A1c is shown as a percentage (for example, 7%). This number represents the amount of glucose stuck to the hemoglobin in your child’s blood. Most people without diabetes have an A1c of 6% or lower. People with diabetes can have numbers much higher than this. The closer to normal your child’s A1c is, the lower his or her risk of health problems later in life. If your child’s A1c number is too high, his or her treatment plan will likely need to be changed. This will help get your child’s blood sugar down to a healthier level.

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, A1c goals for children are as follows:

  • Newborn to age 6: between 7.5% and 8.5%

  • Ages 7-12: less than 8%

  • Ages 13-19: less than 7.5%


For more information about diabetes, visit these websites:

  • American Diabetes Association

  • Children with Diabetes

  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

  • American Association of Diabetes Educators

  • American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists

  • National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse

NOTE: This sheet does not give all the information you need to care for your child with diabetes. Ask your child’s healthcare provider for more information.