A fifth of childhood type 1 diabetes diagnoses appear to have been delayed during the Covid-19 pandemic, new data shows, as experts urge any concerned parents not to delay seeking medical help.
A survey of 88 diabetes units in England, Wales and Northern Ireland published by the UK Association of Children’s Diabetes Clinicians shows that 20% of type 1 childhood diagnoses were delayed during the pandemic, with reasons including ‘fear of Covid-19’ (40%), GP access (22%) and misdiagnosis or symptoms not recognised (17%).
Between March and June, 51% of children and young people were not diagnosed until they developed diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a potentially life-threatening condition that requires hospital treatment. Of these, over half had severe DKA.
The charity’s head of care Dan Howarth said: ‘It’s very concerning that many children and young people are not being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes until their symptoms become severe.
‘A quick diagnosis and early treatment for type 1 diabetes are vital to avoiding serious complications, so we urge parents to seek medical attention straight away if you’re worried about your child,’ he added.
The charity also encouraged people of all ages to be aware of the signs of type 1 diabetes, the 4Ts, which are:
- 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 the thirst
- Tired: Feeling more tired than usual
- Thinner: Losing weight or looking thinner than usual
Mr Howarth continued: ‘Anyone – adult or child – can develop type 1 diabetes, and it’s important to be able to spot the 4Ts of type 1 diabetes.
‘The NHS remains open, and if you suspect your child has any of the 4Ts, act fast. Don’t let coronavirus fears stop you from seeking medical help, as the quicker children are diagnosed, the less likely they are to become seriously ill.’