In this report of SADE OGUNTOLAChildhood diabetes expert Dr. Oluwakemi Ashubu who treats diabetes in children explains why it is and how mothers can help their children cope and live successfully with the disease.
THAT children can be diabetic. Is it true ?
It’s true. People of any age can be diagnosed with diabetes, but the type of diabetes can vary with age. The most common in children is type 1 diabetes, diagnosed between four and six years old or during puberty, between 10 and 14 years old. Genetic or environmental factors, such as exposure to viruses that trigger this autoimmune response, could be responsible.
Some of the environmental factors include stressors that occur around puberty, illnesses, and certain infections. Insulin helps glucose enter cells to help provide energy to carry out various activities. Without insulin, glucose builds up in the blood and the body’s cells cannot access it. The signs and symptoms of diabetes appear when about 90% of the islet cells in the pancreas are destroyed.
What is the incidence of diabetes in children?
The global incidence per year, in 2019, among 0-14 year olds was 98.2 per 1000 children; from 0 to 19 years old was 129 per 1000 children. Thus, the incidence increases with age. Data in Africa are sparse but the incidence per year in children aged 0-14 years was four per 1000 children, in children aged 0-19 years was 10 per 1000 children. The documented incidences in Nigeria have ranged from 8 to 11 cases per 1000 children. This figure is however not unified in Nigeria.
What are the common symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes in children?
Sometimes the diagnosis is delayed in babies and young children because the symptoms are similar to those of other illnesses. Symptoms include increased thirst, drinking a lot of water, weight loss despite increased eating, increased passing of urine during the day and may extend into the night. Nocturnal enuresis may occur in a child who has already toilet trained. There could be tiredness and fatigue, reduced activity in the child with declining school performance. This can actually draw parents’ attention to the child if they haven’t noticed any other problems yet.
At what age does diabetes start early in the children you see at the clinic? Are there any children born with diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that can occur at any age, even in the first year of a child’s life. There are two peak ages of occurrence – ages 4-6 and ages 10-14. The ones I saw commonly in my practice belong to the second age group. This is when children enter puberty, which is a stressful event. In addition, the hormones involved in this process promote the increase in blood sugar levels. Children with a genetic predisposition can then develop diabetes.
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What should parents know about diabetes in children?
Children have no dietary restrictions. Since they grow up, we advise on the quality and quantity of food, ensuring that the child has a balanced diet, drinks water and exercises daily. They are not prevented from attending parties as it might affect them psychologically, so we advise them to eat and take their medication, which is insulin to ensure stable blood sugar levels.
Exercise is important because it helps burn excess blood glucose. Thirty minutes of exercise each day will help the insulin work better in the child. It should not be strenuous exercise and they should check their blood sugar before and after exercise. When a child is sick, management is different because the child may need more supervision. These should consult the doctor for proper care and advice.
Parents should at least inform the school teacher that their child has diabetes. Some parents and even some children think that by doing so they might be treated like outcasts. This can make them miss the time to take their medicine and can have complications that no one understands and help may be too late when they get it.
Myths about diabetes.
Diabetes comes from eating too much sugar. It’s not true. Type 1 diabetes, which is common in children, is the result of the immune system destroying its own tissues, and the islet cells of the pancreas that produce insulin are the victims.
Diabetes can be reversed with diet and exercise. While diet and exercise play an important role in how some people manage their type 1 diabetes, there is currently no cure for the disease.
People with type 1 diabetes must rely on insulin injection for life.
Children can recover from type 1 diabetes: Diabetes is a lifelong disease and people of all ages can be diagnosed with it.
Children with diabetes can’t eat sugar With the right amount of planning, medication, and attention to the amount of carbohydrates they eat, children with diabetes can enjoy the same foods as children without diabetes.
Insulin is a cure for diabetes: Insulin is a necessary and life-saving treatment for people with type 1 diabetes, but it is not a cure.
Eating bitter things keeps blood sugar low: Once, a patient stopped coming to the clinic because neighbors advised her to start eating bitter leaves to keep blood sugar low. However, this only made the situation worse as the blood sugar kept rising.
Diabetes is contagious: it may or may not be hereditary, but you cannot spread diabetes like you can spread a cold virus.
Insulin comes in the form of an injection. Will a child learn to self-inject?
When diagnosed at a younger age, the parents or caregiver may be the ones to help give, but when they are of age and able, they may start by checking their blood sugar and then move on to self-injection. themselves with insulin. Sometimes a parent may forget, be out of town and come back late; it doesn’t mean that the medicine should depend on them, so over time they are taught to check their blood sugar and take insulin.