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Warning signs missed in half of children diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes

16 July 2021

Half of all children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in Queensland are presenting in emergency departments with diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) - a dangerous and potentially fatal complication that develops when the early warning signs of diabetes are missed.

“In some centres, the rate of hospital admission for DKA among children at first presentation with type 1 diabetes is even higher, with Mackay for example at 70 per cent.

This National Diabetes Week (11-17 July), Queensland Children’s Hospital paediatric endocrinologist Dr Tony Huynh is urging parents and carers to be on the lookout for the early warning signs.

“Type 1 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes affecting children and adolescents in Australia and around the world,’ Dr Huynh said.

“The condition occurs when the pancreas stops producing insulin, which is needed to allow sugar to pass into the cells of the body and produce energy.

"If glucose cannot be used for energy, the body breaks down fat for energy instead. This produces ketones in the blood and high levels of ketones can increase the blood’s acidity.

“DKA occurs when the body has had to use ketones for energy for a long period of time. This makes the blood too acidic, and a person can become seriously unwell very quickly. It’s a medical emergency requires immediate management.”

In the past decade, Queensland Health has recorded a 25 per cent increase in hospital admissions among 0-14 years for DKA.

"Type 1 diabetes is not yet preventable but DKA is. I urge all parents, carers and even teenagers to learn the four warning signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes," Dr Huynh said.

“Your child may have diabetes if they show any of the 4 ’T’ signs – toilet, thirsty, tired, thinner.

“If your child has one or more of these symptoms, see your GP immediately and ask for a finger-prick blood glucose test.  It’s easy, fast – and could save your child’s life.”

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Last updated: 16 July 2021