- According to a CDC study, COVID-19 may increase the risk of new-onset diabetes in children.
- Warning signs of diabetes include excessive thirst, frequent urination, rapid weight loss and fatigue.
- Vaccinations, mask wearing, and social distancing measures help protect adults and children from COVID-19 infection and complications.
Children infected with COVID-19 are at higher risk for diabetes, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Early research suggests that COVID-19 can worsen existing diabetes and that people with diabetes are at higher risk for severe COVID. But this new study sheds light on how COVID-19 can induce diabetes in children without a previous diagnosis.
The researchers evaluated two insurance claim datasets of diabetes incidence among people under the age of 18 who were infected with COVID-19 at least 30 days ago. In one dataset, people with COVID-19 had a 166% higher risk of developing diabetes than those without the infection, while another showed a 31% increase.
The study did not distinguish between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, which manifested differently but were grouped together in the results.
According to the researchers, the results underscore the need for people of all ages to take precautions against COVID-19, such as vaccinations when eligible.
COVID-19 may affect type 1 and type 2 diabetes differently
Stephanie Redmond, co-founder and vice president of Diabetes Doctor, PharmD, CDE, BC-ADM, told VigorTip that a viral infection like COVID-19 triggers an autoimmune response where the body starts attacking insulin-producing cells.
A recent study showed that the COVID-19 receptor can reduce insulin levels and kill pancreatic beta cells, This can lead to type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease in which the body stops producing insulin.
Viral infections can also induce or worsen type 2 diabetes through different pathways, Redmond said. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes and is characterized by high blood sugar and insulin resistance.
type 2 diabetes
“General illnesses, including COVID-19, can lead to elevated blood sugar,” Redmond said. “If you’re sick, whether it’s Covid-19, the flu, or a cold, your body releases more stress hormones, more cortisol. If you have diabetes and your blood sugar is rising, it’s possible that you’re sick warning signs.”
Infection with COVID-19 doesn’t necessarily lead to type 2 diabetes, Redmond said, but family history and genetics may play a role.
“If you have a predisposition, if it’s in your genes, then you’re already somewhat insulin resistant,” she said. “Then you have Covid-19, and it might be like a cherry to bring you into that diagnosis, but you might still be going there.”
Redmond added that people who already have type 1 or type 2 diabetes should be extra careful with COVID-19 because they are more susceptible to complications from the virus.
Diabetes symptoms are similar in children and adults: extreme thirst, unexplained changes in hunger, markedly increased urination, weight loss, and fatigue. These symptoms are a result of the brain responding to spikes in blood sugar levels and telling the body that it needs to dilute the sugar with fluids, Redmond explained.
What to do if your child has diabetes caused by COVID-19
Aleida M Saenz, director of patient education at the Diabetes Institute, APRN, FNP-BC, CDCES, told VigorTip in an email that she encourages parents to watch and track their children’s behavior to look for these warning signs.
“For parents whose children already have symptoms of diabetes, the most important step to take immediately is to seek medical attention,” Saenz said. “Physicians can make a diagnosis so that an appropriate treatment plan can be implemented. In addition to determining the best treatment plan, pediatricians should be able to help provide additional guidance and resources to help people with diabetes.”
While type 2 diabetes is reversible, type 1 diabetes is not. For children with new or worsening type 2 diabetes, taking steps to address nutrition and lifestyle changes, sometimes medication or supplemental insulin, can help manage the condition.
From diet to medication: treating type 2 diabetes
CDC researcher Sharon Saydah, who led the study, told the CDC study that it was unclear whether children who developed type 2 diabetes after COVID-19 fully recovered. New York Times.
Children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes may initially be taken to the hospital for fluids and insulin, Redmond said. After that, they are usually discharged with various prescriptions, including insulin. This is something they have to constantly manage and adapt to because the situation will stay with them for a lifetime.
“Without the lack of jargon, it totally sucks because it’s a lifelong verdict on insulin and having to monitor blood sugar all the time,” Redmond said. “With type 1 diabetes, you can live a long, good life, but it’s hard work.”
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what does this mean to you
COVID-19 may increase the risk of diabetes in children. Get vaccinated and take safety measures like social distancing and wearing a mask to protect you and your child from complications from COVID-19.