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Children's health

29th Jun 2023

The silent symptoms of diabetes to look out for in your child

Ellen Fitzpatrick

Diabetes can have an impact on anyone, but while type two is commonly developed in later age, type one is usually detected in childhood.

You can be diagnosed at any age, but it is most common in young people and occurs when the glucose level in the blood is too high.

This happens when your body cannot produce enough insulin to control this, so you need to do it externally.

Managing type one diabetes is tough, and it can take time to get used to, but there are so many new ways to make living with the illness easier day to day.

Children diagnosed with type one diabetes are looked after by a specialist team until they are referred to adult services from age 16 to 18.

This team will educate you and your child about how to manage the illness and help teach you how to inject insulin, test for glucose levels and how to work with a balanced diet, the HSE says.

The CDC says that type one diabetes can be genetic and passed on from parent to child, and other times it can be caused by certain viruses. Type one diabetes has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle habits.

The symptoms

According to Diabetes Ireland, the four main symptoms of Type 1 diabetes are:

  • Thirst: Excess drinking, unable to quench thirst.
  • Toilet: Frequent urination, particularly at night.
  • Tiredness: Lack of energy, sleeping more than usual.
  • Weight loss: Rapid weight loss over a short period.

Less common symptoms include:

  • Lack of concentration
  • Vomiting and abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Bedwetting
  • Mood swings
  • Frequent infections
  • Itchy skin infections

It is important to remember that these symptoms are not as obvious in children under the age of two and early diagnosis to the illness is crucial.

Managing the illness

Checking glucose levels to ensure they are in a normal range is key here to make sure the insulin doses can be adjusted correctly.

For this, we use a glucose meter. In this, you prick the finger to draw a tiny amount of blood, which does not hurt in the slightest.

You then take the drop of blood and put it on strips for the blood glucose and blood ketone meter which then checks to see the level you are at. This should be done 5-7 times a day and always before meals and bed. The normal range is between 4-8 mmols/L.

Initially, when diagnosed, you will be given injections or an insulin pen to provide the insulin and is injected in the abdomen, legs or buttocks.
“Insulin pump therapy is another option for delivering insulin. It is rarely used at diagnosis but may be a suitable option as your child’s diabetes journey progresses,” Diabetes Ireland says.