Only the Flu?

Logo for the World Diabetes Day

Logo for the World Diabetes Day (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am going to post the following information, not to scare anyone, but to share how important the following is and how a simple test can make a huge difference.

In the past 2 weeks I have heard of THREE different children dying because of a missed Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis. Two of those children were infants, one 8 month old and one 10 month old. These children’s parents were told that their child’s symptoms were “the flu” or some other similar malady. There is so much awareness and training for Type 2 diabetes, which is by far more common than Type 1 and comprises about 85-90% of people with diabetes. But type 1 has far more serious consequences if not taken care of immediately when symptoms present. With cold and flu season soon upon us I would like to share with you the common symptoms of type 1 diabetes that often get written off as something non-serious.

1. Frequent urination
2. Excessive thirst
3. Fruity or winelike smelling breath (can also sometimes smell like acetone)
4. Excessive hunger
5. Blurred vision
6. Fatigue/lethargy
7. Vomiting
8. Labored breathing or wheezing
9. Sudden unexplained weight loss

Most of these symptoms are not too worrisome on their own, and most general practitioners are not trained in identifying and treating type 1 diabetes. If your child is experiencing these symptoms and you take them to the dr, ask for them to do a fingerstick to check blood sugar and/or a urine dipstick test to check for sugar or ketones in the urine.

IF these tests are done and the dr thinks it might be diabetes, go to the ER or hospital. As I previously stated, most dr’s are trained in Type 2 Diabetes which doesn’t usually require emergency care at onset because the pancreas is still producing insulin, it just doesn’t use it efficiently. With type 1 diabetes the pancreas does not produce insulin (or not enough) and the body will essentially starve to death because it cannot use the food for fuel and will start breaking down fat stores to function. The byproduct of the body burning fat for fuel are called ketones and they can cause the blood to become acidic (ketoacidosis) Organ damage or failure can result if diabetes is left untreated, especially the kidneys.

Again, I am not sharing any of this to scare anyone, but to encourage parents to ask for a simple test if the dr is not sure if your child’s symptoms are the flu.

Angelina had a cold the week of her diagnosis, she started using the restroom a lot, drinking a lot and complaining of her eyes being blurry. I thought she was dehydrated from being sick. It was 3 days from when that first symptom occurred until I took her to the dr, and I took her because the cold was getting worse instead of better (it ended up being pneumonia), not because of the other symptoms. She spent 4 days in the hospital getting her blood sugar down to normal levels and was in mild diabetic ketoacidosis. She had lost about 5-7 lbs in 2 weeks, and I wrote it off as a growth spurt because she always gets taller before she gains weight.

I have talked to numerous other parent’s in the Type 1 Diabetes community and most of their stories are similar to ours – they thought their child had a UTI, or was dehydrated, or had the flu. They didn’t have diabetes in their family so they never even considered that it could be that. Diabetes isn’t only a familial disease. Only 10-15% of people with type 1 diabetes have a relative with diabetes.

If you would like more information about Type 1 Diabetes you can go the American Diabetes Association (ADA) webpage.  The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) also has some good information.  Or, feel free to email me at:  Type1DMom@outlook.com  and I will try to help point you in the right direction.

We need to get the word out so kids can stop dying because of a lack of education and awareness.  Type 1 diabetes is a very treatable disease.  It’s not easy, by any means.  But it is treatable, and people with diabetes can and will go on to lead long and fulfilling lives with proper education and treatment.

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