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Diabetes UK: Don’t let Covid-19 fears stop you seeking help for your children

By Aine Fox, PA

Parents are being urged not to let coronavirus fears stop them from getting medical help for their children if they are worried about diabetes symptoms.

Since the country went into lockdown, disproportionate numbers of young people have already reached the seriously ill stage of the disease by the time they arrive for urgent care, according to anecdotal information from clinicians, Diabetes UK said.

The charity said it is important parents know the early signs that their child might have type 1 diabetes, and seek help fast.

Symptoms can come on over a few days or weeks, and without treatment, consistently high blood sugar levels can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, known as DKA.

It is a life-threatening complication that can be prevented entirely if the signs of type 1 diabetes are spotted early, the charity said.

Dan Howarth, the charity’s head of care, 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.”

The charity said it also had research, based on National Paediatric Diabetes Audit Hospital admissions and complications reports from previous years, that almost a quarter (23%) of all children and young people found to have type 1 diabetes in England and Wales were not formally diagnosed until they had become seriously ill with DKA.

The symptoms, which the charity refers to as the 4Ts, are going to the toilet a lot, thirst, tiredness and losing weight or looking thinner than usual.

NHS England medical director Stephen Powis has said the NHS is still open for regular business despite the coronavirus outbreak.

Listing serious ailments including symptoms of a heart attack or symptoms of a stroke, he also said parents with a sick child who is deteriorating “should be accessing services in the same way that you always have done”.