When you or your child first begins to show signs and symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes, you may find yourself asking, "What are ketones?"  This is probably because you were advised to buy some ketone sticks to find the level of ketones in the urine.  This is what happened to me and my wife.  After watching our son slowly develop the symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes, we were told that these sticks would help us know if we needed to be concerned about diabetes.  So we went to Walmart, picked up a bottle of the ketone sticks, and the result was a dark red, maroonish color on the stick after it was dipped in my son's urine.  We didn't know what that meant, but we were confident that it wasn't good. 

So What Are Ketones?

First off, I am not a chemist or a doctor.  I only know what I have read and experienced about ketones through my son's diabetes battle.  Basically, ketones are an acidic and toxic byproduct of fat being burned by the body for energy.  In a healthy person this is not a big deal because ketones do not accumulate in large quantities, and they can be easily passed by the body through urine.  However, they present a problem for Type 1 diabetics because when the body cannot process glucose for energy, more fat is being burned, and more ketones are being produced.  Because of the acidity of ketones, this can lead to a devastating and potentially fatal condition called diabetic ketoacidosis.

What Level Of Ketones Is Normal?

When you look at a bottle of ketone sticks, there is a key to let you know what level is normal.  The best answer is that you want the body to be negative for ketones.  Any level higher than that is too much.  Trace or small levels are not problematic, but if you think you or your child are showing other symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes then you should seek medical attention immediately.  For diagnosed diabetics the cause of action is usually to drink fluids to help pass the ketones as soon as possible.

If the sticks show that the body's level is moderate or higher, then the body is approaching a critical stage, if it is not already there.  Again, diagnosed diabetics have a way to manage this situation through drinking fluids, taking extra insulin, and being vigilant about watching the ketone level until is gets back down to acceptable levels.  However, if you or your child have not been diagnosed as a Type 1 diabetic, you should immediately get to an emergency room.

Once at the emergency room, the doctors and nurses will do a much more thorough examination and determine the next course of action.  If diabetes is confirmed, the hospital staff will instantly begin work to get the body's glucose levels and ketone levels down to where they need to be.

Ketones Are Not To Be Messed With

If you find yourself in the same situation my wife and I found ourselves in, becoming increasingly worried and even scared about what you are seeing in your child, and you suspect Type 1 Diabetes, go to the pharmacy section of your nearest retailer or drug store, pick up a cheap bottle of ketone sticks and follow the directions.  It can literally be a life saver.

Ketostix Reagent Strips, 100-Count Box
Amazon Price: $19.34 $18.50 Buy Now
(price as of Apr 11, 2014)