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Warning to parents about the risk of undiagnosed diabetes among children and young people


The Health Minister and the Children and Young People’s Wales Diabetes Network are making an urgent plea to parents to seek immediate health advice if they suspect their child may have diabetes.

Don’t wait, don’t leave it too late was the message for parents who can get help from their GP.

Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, said:

As a parent I know how important it is to seek urgent medical help for your children even though these are worrying times for families and children.

But essential diabetes health services are still available, so if your child is showing signs of diabetes: don’t wait, don’t leave it too late.

Parents were reminded of the signs to watch out for in children and young people which can develop very quickly over a few days or weeks.

Get in touch with your GP now if your child is displaying any of the four Ts:

  • Thirst
  • Toilet habits – passing urine more often than usual particularly at night
  • Tiredness
  • Thinner – weight loss and loss of muscle bulk

Other signs include throat or urinary tract infection, abdominal pain, vomiting, rapid breathing (which mimics a chest infection that is not responding to treatment), and confusion and disorientation.

The number of children and young people who would usually be seen by health professionals in Wales since the pandemic began seems to have fallen. Data is being collected to determine the impact of the pandemic on services.

Dr Davida Hawkes, Chair of the Children and Young People’s Wales Diabetes Network (CYPWDN) said she was concerned that on average each month the network usually sees 12-14 children newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes across Wales. In recent weeks this has dropped.

Dr Hawkes said:

We are concerned that we have had fewer children than we would expect newly diagnosed in recent weeks in Wales, and some have been in a severe stage of Type 1 diabetes, called Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA), which is a late potentially life threatening stage of the condition.

We think this may well be due to parents being worried about COVID and not approaching healthcare services. But there is a bigger risk from untreated Type 1 diabetes in children and young people than from COVID infection.

All children’s services in Wales have arrangements in place to ensure that children receiving care are safe from COVID infection, including the establishment of non-Covid areas.

If we can start treating Type 1 diabetes as early as possible, it is possible for children to recover rapidly and have a more positive experience of Type 1 diabetes, which is a lifelong condition.

Dai Williams, National Director at Diabetes UK Cymru said:

I came to Diabetes UK Cymru 12 years ago, having almost lost my son due to late diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. We have been leading the way with colleagues in the NHS and our tireless supporters ever since to raise awareness of 25% of kids who have severe DKA at diagnosis of the condition.  

We have seen the tragic consequences of undiagnosed diabetes in children and the devastation it causes and we will bolster our campaign to get the message across as we continue to support children and families living with diabetes.

We have focused on children, as the condition can come on very quickly, it can be missed and the impact of COVID-19 has now disrupted systems for instance in schools and nurseries, where the alarm can be raised.

For further advice visit the NHS Wales symptom checker at 111.wales.nhs.uk and search for diabetes. More information is also available at the Diabetes UK  Cymru “Know Type 1” web-page.



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