Campaign to prevent life-threatening condition in children with diabetes

15 July 2016
Seven-year-old Melissa van Blerk tosses an apple. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes with DKA at 2.5 years old
Healthy now: Melissa van Blerk was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes with DKA at 2.5 years old

Every year, around 60 children under the age of 15 years are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in Auckland. If diabetes is not diagnosed early enough, it can lead to life-threatening complications.

Children who develop type 1 diabetes do not produce enough insulin to use the glucose (sugar) in their blood. So, their bodies start to burn fat, which turns to waste known as ketones. If type 1 diabetes is not diagnosed early, the levels of ketone rise and become poisonous. This is a serious condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (or DKA).

In Auckland, DKA affects 28 percent of children newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Children with this condition have to stay in hospital longer, may need intensive care, and can have dangerous brain swelling. DKA can be fatal.

"The best ‘treatment’ is to prevent DKA by diagnosing type 1 diabetes early on,” says Liggins Institute researcher Dr José Derraik. “So we want to help parents recognise the symptoms of type 1 diabetes in their kids.”

To do this, researchers from the Institute and Starship Children’s Hospital have produced a cartoon poster with the message “Children get diabetes too!” It will be delivered to all households in the Auckland region in July.

The simple cartoon poster shows the most common symptoms, which include:

  • going to the toilet to pee too often during the day
  • going to the toilet to pee at night or wetting the bed
  • drinking too much

Other symptoms may include weight loss and feeling overly tired.

“Our message to parents and caregivers is that if you notice that your child has started to display these behaviours, get her or him checked out by a doctor,” says Dr Derraik. “Once it’s picked up, type 1 diabetes can be managed well at home, without your child getting sicker or needing to go to hospital.”

Associated link: Children get diabetes too!



Nicola Shepheard

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Tel: 09 923 1515

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