Childhood diabetes


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.

ALSO SEE: The facts about diabetes

Symptoms of Type 1 diabetes

Symptoms occur suddenly and include:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination and often bedwetting
  • Weight loss
  • Tiredness
  • 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.

ALSO SEE: 7 tips for parents who are raising a child with diabetes


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.

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