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Be Vigilant for Signs of Diabetes During COVID-19 Lockdown

Nevertheless, he says it will be important to systematically gather findings on this issue and examine the impact of COVID-19 on new diagnoses of type 1 diabetes.

Remember the 4Ts: Don’t Confuse Diabetes Symptoms With Those of Virus

Diabetes UK stress that the early signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes are easy to mistake for a viral infection or other illness, which is why it is so important to be 4T aware. 4T refers to toilet, thirsty, tired, and thinner. 

Toilet: Going to the toilet a lot, bed wetting by a previously dry child, or heavier nappies in babies.

Thirsty: Being really thirsty and not being able to quench thirst.

Tired: Feeling more tired than usual.

Thinner: Losing weight or looking thinner than usual.

“It is vital that parents are aware of the early signs of type 1 diabetes and seek help if they need it,” said Dan Howarth, head of care at Diabetes UK. 

“DKA can be a life-threatening complication of diabetes. If a child or young person does not receive immediate treatment for DKA, it can lead to coma, or even death,” he stressed.

“The quicker children are diagnosed the less likely they are to become seriously ill,” Howarth noted.

And he also urged GPs not to forget about possible diabetes symptoms.

“When patients call or visit the practice, try to ensure that the tell-tale symptoms of type 1 diabetes are not overlooked — especially as the 4Ts may not be all present at the same time,” he said.

“Signs of type 1 diabetes need to be addressed as soon as possible, because if not, it will lead to further risks for the patient and can potentially lead to an acute admission to hospital.”

These concerns echo comments made last week by Stephen Powis, BM BCh, PhD, national medical director of NHS England, when he highlighted the need to ensure medical attention for non-COVID-19 diseases is sought in a timely way.

“If you have any emergency condition, whether it’s a sick child, whether it’s a mother or a pregnant mother…you should be seeking emergency services, just as you always have done — they are there for you. And although we are focusing on coronavirus, it’s important that we also continue to focus on other emergency conditions,” Powis said.

Even prior to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s estimated that around 600 children and young people in the UK each year receive a type 1 diabetes diagnosis only after they develop DKA, based on National Paediatric Diabetes Audit Hospital admissions and complications reports (2012-2015, 2017). 

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