PARENTS should be alert to warning signs of early onset diabetes in children, and not to delay during the Covid-19 pandemic from seeking diagnosis of and treatment for the condition, it has been stressed.
Dr Orla Neylon, consultant paediatric endocrinologist at University Hospital Limerick, said parents should be aware of the symptoms, and, if their child is displaying them, to contact first their family doctor or, if their GP is unavailable, the paediatric emergency department at UHL.
“Treatment is urgent,” Dr Neylon said. “If children are urinating frequently; if they are excessively thirsty and wetting the bed; if they’re losing weight; and if the child has a lack of energy, then parents should consider the possibility of diabetes, and get it checked immediately.”
She added, “It’s understandable during the current Covid-19 pandemic that people might be concerned about attending hospitals, but if diabetes is not treated as a matter of urgency, it can lead to complications that are potentially fatal.”
The early symptoms outlined above can progress to vomiting, dehydration, rapid deep breathing and coma (ketoacidosis) if the condition is not diagnosed and treated.
Dr Neylon said while children with diabetes seem to have no increased risk of severe Covid-19 infection, some countries in recent months have reported an increase in life-threatening complications from untreated diabetes, possibly due to people’s fear of or lack of access to hospital treatment.
“Our paediatric diabetes population do not seem to be at an increased risk of severe Covid-19 infection, but it is a concern that Italy and China are reporting an increase in severe DKA, a life-threatening complication of untreated diabetes that has most likely arisen as a result of people’s fear of attending hospitals, or a reduced ability to access healthcare,” Dr Neylon said.
“Especially at this time, it is vital that parents should not delay having their children checked out if they are displaying the symptoms,” Dr Neylon added.
Approximately 95% of diabetes in children and adolescents is Type 1 Diabetes which arises as a result of the person’s immune system destroying the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. There is currently no cure for this condition, but it is very treatable with insulin replacement therapy. University Hospital Limerick has a multidisciplinary team available to treat paediatric diabetes.