Diabetes UK says ‘NHS is open’ and urges symptom awareness during lockdown

By Editor
20th April 2020
Charity, Coronavirus

Parents are being urged not to let coronavirus fears stop them from seeking medical help overs fears their child could be showing the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes.

Diabetes UK says emergency care should be sought if needed it, with the charity reminding parents of the 4Ts of type 1 diabetes, and reassuring them that if they need urgent help – the NHS is open.

These sentiments were echoed by Professor Stephen Powis, National Medical Director of NHS England, on Wednesday, April 8.

Despite type 1 diabetes being the most common form in children and young people, new research from Diabetes UK has found that almost a quarter (23%) of all newly diagnosed children and young people with type 1 diabetes in England and Wales were not formally diagnosed until they had become seriously ill with diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

Diabetes UK’s analysis is based on the National Paediatric Diabetes Audit Hospital admissions and complications reports 2012-2015 (2017). These reports show that each year around 600 children and young people received a type 1 diabetes diagnosis only after they developed DKA – a medical emergency which must be treated in hospital quickly.

The early signs and symptoms are easy to mistake for a viral infection or other illness, which is why it’s so important to be 4T aware.

What are the 4Ts?

  • 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

These symptoms of type 1 diabetes are also the most common symptoms in adults, who should equally be type 1 aware, and other symptoms can include infections such as thrush, or blurred vision, the charity said.

The symptoms of type 1 diabetes come on very quickly – over a few days or weeks – and need urgent treatment. Without treatment, consistently high blood sugar levels can lead to DKA. DKA can often be treated with insulin and fluids if it is picked up quickly. But the life-threatening complication could be prevented entirely if the signs of type 1 diabetes are spotted early.

While the UK is under lockdown, Diabetes UK has also been hearing anecdotally from clinicians that disproportionate numbers of young people are arriving for urgent care already in DKA, further highlighting the need for people to act, and fast, if they suspect type 1 diabetes.

Dan Howarth is Head of Care at Diabetes UK. He said: “We know that parents currently have a million things on their mind, and they’re doing everything they can to keep themselves and their families safe during the coronavirus outbreak.

“But diabetic ketoacidosis 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.

“It is vital that parents are aware of the early signs of type 1 diabetes and seek help if they need it. The NHS is open, and the health service is still there for you. The quicker children are diagnosed the less likely they are to become seriously ill. If you spot the signs, please call 999.”

Information about the signs and symptoms of all types of diabetes can be found here:  https://www.diabetes.org.uk/diabetes-the-basics/diabetes-symptoms.

Find out more about DKA and what you can do to avoid it here: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/complications/diabetic_ketoacidosis.

Diabetes UK has also prepared up-to-date guidance to support anyone living with or affected by diabetes during the coronavirus epidemic, which can be found at: www.diabetes.org.uk/coronavirus.

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