Does my child have Diabetes? This is the question I asked myself a couple of weeks before Christmas in 2013, if you’re asking yourself this very question read on to discover our story and the facts about Type 1 Diabetes Symptoms.
As a family we have always been “Diabetes Aware” to some extent as my Grandmother developed Type 1 Diabetes in later years, and my Dad has Type 2. Though did you know, many children diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes have no family history of the condition?
Some time between September and December, my 10 year old son started to lose weight. By mid December he had lost at least a stone, whilst he was probably on the heavier side he could never be described as fat, but he’d suddenly become very slim. To be fair he looked great, I put the weight loss down to him being more active now the football season had started or maybe he was outgrowing the puppy fat stage.
In November he seemed to have days where he was very thirsty. Not every day though, I put this down to the fact that he wasn’t drinking enough at school. Then I started to notice, when we stopped at the shop on the way home from school, he became more concerned with buying a drink than an after school snack. The thirst at times became insatiable, he’d down a couple of large glasses in a row. Both Grandmothers even commented on it, at that point that I started to realize I needed to get him checked out.
As most modern day Mums do, first I turned to Dr Google! I had Googled “Does My Child Have Diabetes” and whilst most articles online described the thirst and weight loss as a symptom, many articles led me to believe that if he did have Type 1 Diabetes he would be feeling very poorly indeed and this just wasn’t the case with my son.
I phoned the Doctors surgery and explained I wanted my child to be tested for Diabetes. They suggested I see the Diabetic Nurse but explained she was very busy and the next appointment was on Christmas Eve at 8.45. A time and date I will never forget. I didn’t push for an earlier appointment as he seemed fine, I really thought he was OK, I mean serious health conditions just didn’t happen to us, he was a super healthy child, I was just being cautious. I really wasn’t aware of the urgency to the situation, if I knew what I know now, I would never have waited for a whole week for an appointment, nor should we have been asked to.
On Christmas Eve we arrive at the Doctors Surgery, Jack asks how they will test him for Diabetes? Will they just test his urine or will they prick his finger, like he had seen his Grandad do? This is a boy that is terrified of pain or needles (oh the irony). I didn’t fancy the nurses chances of getting blood from him.
We enter the Nurses Office, I explain why we have come, he has lost lots of weight and is incredibly thirsty. She measures him, weighs him and asks how he feels? He feels fine. She then tells me she really doesn’t think he has Diabetes, as he would be really ill by now. Though she agreed to a finger prick test to put my mind at ease, thankfully and miraculously Jack didn’t cause a fuss. When the Nurse looked at the reading she actually gasped, she said “oh my god, it’s actually very high. Well that is a shock isn’t it?”. It might have been a shock to her but it wasn’t to me. I was aware of the symptoms and knew there was a chance that Diabetes could be the diagnosis, at this stage there was no talk about the different types (1 & 2), and I really didn’t have a clue what the difference either.
She then took a urine sample and found there to be large ketones. She said we needed to head to hospital as quickly as possible, she phoned ahead and told us to report to the Childrens Ward.
The journey to the Hospital was a real blur. I thought we would be there for an hour at the most. I reassured Jack that they would just give us some medication and send us on our way. I was wrong.
Before I go any further with our Diagnosis Story, I will point out the typical symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes in Children (this is the type that almost all children are diagnosed with, it’s not related to lifestyle in any way and it really can happen to anyone).
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF TYPE 1 DIABETES?
Look out for the 4 T’s.
Thirst – Is your Child drinking far more than usual?
Thinner – Has your Child recently lost any weight?
Tired – Does your Child seem more tired than usual?
Toilet – Is your Child going to the toilet more often to urinate?
Your child might not show all of these symptoms, like my son, your child might only display a couple of them. It might be that your child does not have Type 1 Diabetes, but the only way you will find out is by taking them to the Doctor’s to be tested, straight away.
My advice when you visit your Doctor is to specify that you are concerned about Type 1 Diabetes, specifically request a test. Whilst at the hospital I found out that whilst more and more Children are being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, it is still pretty rare. Just 17 children were diagnosed in 2013 at our local hospital. Though the 98% of children diagnosed with Diabetes, have Type 1, it’s an auto-immune condition that is not caused by lifestyle, or eating to many sweets or even anything that a parent did during pregnancy. In fact nobody really knows what the cause is but it can effect anyone. As it’s not a common condition many Doctors and Nurses will rarely ever have to diagnose a child with the condition and they may not be quick enough to pick up on the symptoms.
If your child is not diagnosed quickly they run the risk of developing DKA (Diabetic Ketoacidosis) which is a life threatening condition. Sadly this is the reality of 25% of children in the UK upon diagnosis, this is why it is so important to be aware of the symptoms. DKA occurs when the blood becomes too acidic due to ketones. Symptoms include those described above but can also include vomiting, nausea, tummy pain, changes in breathing, an unusual smell to their breath (similar to pear drops) and in severe cases your child may become unconscious. I was told once my son was admitted to hospital that if we had been a day later he could have been in a coma. I’ve since written to my Doctor’s surgery to raise awareness of Type 1 Diabetes, my son should never have been made to wait for 1 week before seeing the Diabetic Nurse.
So if you are still wondering “Does My Child Have Diabetes?” don’t waste another minute. Phone your Doctor’s Surgery now. I hope you have found our story both interesting and helpful. Our story is not unique, there are around 30,000 Children in the UK that are living with Type 1 Diabetes. If your child also has this condition please share your diagnosis story in our comments section below, especially share the symptoms that your child developed. Hopefully these experiences will help other parents who are concerned about their children and encourage them to get the help they need.
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