Type 1 diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in childhood and the number of children developing Type 1 diabetes is growing rapidly, according to Annie Deijs, a diabetes educator in Johannesburg.
The biggest increase appears to be in the three- to six-year-old age group, the reasons for this are unknown.
Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes
Symptoms occur suddenly and include:
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent urination and often bedwetting
- Weight loss
- Blurred vision
Who’s at risk?
Diabetes can be diagnosed at any age. Studies have found that the following may put a child at an increased risk of developing Type 1 diabetes:
- Illness during early infancy
- A family history of Type 1 diabetes
- Having an older mother
- If the mother had preeclampsia during pregnancy (high-blood pressure that didn’t exist before the pregnancy)
- Certain ethnic groups appear to be at an increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
Treatment includes administering insulin by means of multiple daily injections or an insulin pump, a minimum of four glucose checks daily and a healthy meal plan.
Eating for diabetes
Children with diabetes are encouraged to follow a wholesome meal plan, but a special diabetes diet isn’t necessary. It’s important for parents to educate their child about why certain foods are required at particular times.
Exercise is important for children with diabetes, as it helps to keep blood sugar levels down. A child with diabetes needs to be educated on the amount of exercise they can do, suitable times to exercise and how to adjust their treatment to accommodate the workout. A medical team consisting of a paediatric endocrinologist, a dietician and a diabetes nurse educator will teach these management skills to you and your family.
Diabetes can be diagnosed by means of a urine test and a blood test, to test for glucose. If you suspect your child may have diabetes, it’s important to have him tested as soon as possible. It’s vital for Type 1 diabetes to be treated appropriately as soon as possible to prevent any future medical complications. A timely diagnosis can be lifesaving.