Acetone in Children: Causes and Treatment

The substance called acetone has several symptoms. The most important ones are urine with a strong odor and vomiting.
Acetone in Children: Causes and Treatment

Last update: 16 January, 2019

In children, very low glucose levels causes the body to burn fat as an alternative means of energy. This produces a substance in the body called acetone. Do you know what the symptoms and treatment are?

Causes of acetone in children

Acetone can occur in both healthy children and those with certain conditions. Therefore, the cause depends on the child’s health status.

In healthy children

  • Fasting for hours. Not having breakfast or being late at lunchtime causes the sugars in the body to decrease.
  • Improper nutrients. This can happen if the child consumes too much fat or animal protein, or doesn’t have enough sugar.

In children with certain illnesses

  • High fever. When he’s had a prolonged fever, the body has been working very hard.
  • Vomiting. If the child vomited several times, he eliminated excess sugars.
  • Pharyngitis. Because of the discomfort it causes, it prevents the child from eating food, or having inappetence causing prolonged fasting.
  • Juvenile diabetes. Low blood glucose can occur due to habitual delays at mealtime. On the other hand, for type 1 diabetes, blood glucose can rise due to the lack of insulin in his body.
Acetone in Children: Causes and Treatment

Symptoms of acetone in children

  • Breath smelling like ripe apples. Acetone releases when you exhale. Then, if your child is producing acetone, his breath will smell like ripe apples.
  • Urine with a very strong smell. When acetone escapes through urine, it gives off a strong smell.
  • Drowsiness, inappetence, nausea, paleness, and vomiting. This is because of very low blood glucose level (hypoglycemia), both in healthy and diabetic children.
  • Pasty mouth, dry tongue, digestive disorders and irritability. This is because of very high blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia). It occurs exclusively in diabetic children, more so ones with type 1 that are insulin-dependent. This is because of their lack of insulin, or they’re getting less than the amount they need.

Treating acetone

Before those symptoms appear, it’s essential to consult a specialist to determine the appropriate treatment. Still, in general, here are some tips:

  • Diet. In healthy children, avoid fatty foods and try to make fruit juicesWith diabetic children with hyperglycemia, give them sugar-free fluids and avoid carbohydrates. For hypoglycemic children, give them fluids with sugar.

Fruit juice is highly recommended when children’s blood sugar level is low. This is due to its high sugar content.

Acetone in Children: Causes and Treatment
  • Insulin. For children with type 1 diabetes (insulin-dependent), make sure to inject the proper dose.
  • Rest. In both healthy and diabetic children, avoid exercising while acetone is in their body. This is because their bodies will be forced to get energy from fats since there are no glucose reserves. Therefore, they’ll increase acetone production.
  • Controls. For healthy children, measure the ketone bodies with urine tests. However, for diabetics, measure blood sugar as well as acetone through a glucometer.

Some recommendations

Acetone doesn’t involve a disease, but we recommend that parents know if it’s present in their children’s bodies. The appearance of acetone isn’t serious if you act in time, but it’s dangerous if it’s  present in large quantities or for a long time. 

This is because it can cause symptoms that can threaten the health of healthy children. For children with diseases, it can take control of them and their treatment.

It’s important that you consult your pediatrician if any symptoms arise. That way, he can analyze your child’s state of health and create a treatment plan so it doesn’t cause problems in the future.


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Asociación Americana de la Diabetes. (2015). Hiperglucemia. Artículo perteneciente a la Asociación Americana de la Diabetes.
  • Martínez Ariza, Leticia. (2016). Cetoacidosis Diabética en niños. Artículo perteneciente a la Asociación Colombiana de Endocrinología, Diabetes y Metabolismo.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.