As part of National Diabetes Awareness Month, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH) is urging parents to be aware of the signs and symptoms of type 1 diabetes in children.
Type 1 diabetes can occur in any child at any age, even in babies and toddlers. Often, the symptoms go unrecognized and the disease is only diagnosed when the child becomes critically ill with a potentially life-threatening condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA is highly preventable. The sooner it is known, the sooner appropriate treatment can be administered.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes in children can include any of the following:
*Feeling very thirsty all the time
*Passing urine very frequently and wetting the bed
*Excessive, unexplained tiredness
*Sweet or fruity-smelling breath.
The UDOH has partnered with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) in Salt Lake City to help raise awareness of the symptoms associated with type 1 diabetes.
"With National Diabetes Month we have a valuable opportunity to educate parents about the symptoms of type 1," said Laura Western, executive director of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) in Salt Lake City. "It is our job to not only support families living with this devastating disease but to also teach the community critical diabetes warning signs so children don't go undiagnosed for months, becoming dangerously ill,' Western added. "You can live a normal life with this chronic illness, but the first obstacle to overcome is being diagnosed."
Diabetes is a way of life for the Weeks family of West Jordan. Two of their three children have type 1, also called juvenile diabetes. The family learned that Tyson, now four years old, had diabetes when he was just two. Seven-year-old Brooklyn was diagnosed at the age of four.
"Brooklyn became very thirsty and was constantly making trips to the bathroom," said her mom, Shannon. "When she started having two or three accidents at night, we knew something was wrong, but didn't know enough about diabetes to put two and two together."
And Brooklyn had other symptoms: mood swings, dry, itchy skin, sweet-smelling breath, and weight loss. She was very sick. One trip to the doctor, and a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes would change their lives. The Weeks family took a crash course in learning how to help their daughter live with the disease.
That knowledge helped the Weeks family recognize symptoms in two-year-old Tyson very early, before he became as ill as Brooklyn was.
"There is nothing I did wrong for my kids to get diabetes. It had nothing to do with diet or exercise. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease that couldn't be prevented," says Shannon.
The ADA offers a service called Family Link, a volunteer-led program that allows families living with diabetes to get to know other families with the same conditions. The ADA also offers Safe at School trainings that teach parents what their child's rights are while attending school.
Jennifer Jacobson of the UDOH Diabetes Program says, "While nothing can stop the onset of type 1 diabetes, better awareness of the signs and symptoms can help parents recognize it so doctors can diagnosis it early, before a child faces a life-or-death crisis."
For more information about type 1 diabetes, visit http://health.utah.gov/diabetes/.