Childhood diabetes with Sheena McKellar: 28.02.13

Our Health at Hand nurse and midwife Sheena answers all your childhood diabetes questions, such as spotting the symptoms, prevention and managing the condition.

fiona asked: Hi there, how common is type 2 diabetes in children? Is it something that is entirely impacted by diet and exercise?

Sheena McKellar answered: Type 2 diabetes is uncommon in children. 90-95% of childhood cases are type 1 diabetes. Due to childhood obesity and higher consumption of sugary foods there are now more cases of type 2 diabetes in the UK and the western world.

welshmumof3boys asked: What symptoms should we be looking out for in young children?

Sheena McKellar answered: In young children you would look for unexplained thirst, unexplained weight loss, tiredness, frequent urination, also in children they can have tummy aches, headaches and behavioural problems.

welshmumof3boys commented: Should you monitor these symptoms if you spot them and if so how long for before you seek help from your gp?

ShazzerP asked: How important is it to ensure that your children eat as few sugary, highly processed foods as possible? And how can you do this when all their friends eat junk?

Sheena McKellar answered: Processed foods often add sugar to the processing so this will increase the amount on consumed sugars, so care needs to be taken. But children can still have some sugary foods as you do not want the child to feel as if they are missing out. Even diabetic children can have some sweet foods.

Ruth asked: Hello, can childhood diabetes be reversed at all? Or is it something your child will have for the rest of their life?

Sheena McKellar answered: Childhood diabetes is usually type 1 and this is not reversable.

Ruth commented: But what if its type 2?

AXA PPP healthcare commented: Hi Ruth, there is some information about the difference between the two types here

ShazzerP commented: AXA PPP healthcare has a great artcile about managing children with diabetes. Why not have a look. It's in their dedicated centre for pregnancy and childcare that also has lots of other useful articles and the latest news stories.

welshmumof3boys asked: Is there anything we can do to help prevant our children developing childhood diabetes?

Sheena McKellar answered: Preventing obesity in your children and preventing over consumption of sugary foods can help prevent type 2 diabetes.

Anonymous2 asked: What signs of diabetes should we watch out for in children?

Sheena McKellar answered: The main symptoms are the same as in adults. They tend to come on over a few weeks:

  • thirst
  • weight loss
  • tiredness
  • frequent urination.

Symptoms that are more typical for children include:

  • tummy pains
  • headaches
  • behaviour problems.

Nick B asked: Hello, How high is the risk of a baby being born with diabetes if the mother or father already have this condition?

Sheena McKellar answered: Non diabetic parents can have a baby born with diabetes. There is no proven genetic link.

welshmumof3boys asked: How long should we monitor symptoms for if we think our child has childhood diabetes before we seek advice/help from our gp?

Sheena McKellar answered: Ideally as soon as possible if you notice any of the listed changes below in your child, you should go to your GP:
The main symptoms are the same as in adults.

  • thirst
  • weight loss
  • tiredness
  • frequent urination.

Symptoms that are more typical for children include:

  • tummy pains
  • headaches
  • behaviour problems.

welshmumof3boys commented: Great thank you

Emma asked: Can babies have diabetes from birth? Or is it something that develops?

Sheena McKellar answered: Yes, babies can be born with type 1 diabetes, where they produce no insulin. They can also develop diabetes later, either type 1 where their body no longer produces insulin or type 2 diabetes where tis is diet related and their body no longer produces enough insulin to cope with their daily food intake.

lyoung asked: How can I explain diabetes to a young child without frightening them?

Sheena McKellar answered: There is information via Diabetes UK to assist with this. Also your diabetic nurse specialists will have child specific teaching information on this to assist in your discussions with your child.
The main thing the child needs to know is that this is something to help them and make them feel better. The nurse will have demonstration needles and insulin eqipment so they can see what they may need to use and the child can touch these and see what they do. You can also test your blood glucose at the same time as your child so that they understand that they are not the only one who has this.

L6HJH commented: I personally would keep it simple and blase by just telling them a short story.. That they are one of the Special Children who are allergic to all sugary sweet things (while telling them because they were born sweet enough as it is and anymore would turn them into a 'Jellybaby'.. While laughing and cuddling them at the same time..) Then persist to explain that by checking their Sugar Levels (To see how far of a Jellybaby they've started to become.) They need to take their 'Magic Medicine' to make sure they don't turn into one and remain Mummy/Daddy's Superhero instead!!! That's how I'd do it :)

L6HJH asked: Hello, I'm Type 2 Diabetic but also Insulin dependent. How common is this now as my GP still states it's quite rare?

Sheena McKellar answered: No this is very common, all type 2 diabetics will eventually end up on insulin over time as the pancreas produces less and less insulin.

L6HJH commented: Thank you Sheena, that makes total sense but I'm also resilient to insulin is there any reason why that would be?  Oh and please ignore my last post (it was meant for another box!)

Anonymous3 asked: Do you have any tips on injecting insulin without tears or tantrums...which can be very upsetting for both parent & little one!

Sheena McKellar answered: Your diabetic nurse specialist can help you with this. It may be a case of keeping the insulin needle hidden from your child. Some drug companies do produce this type of device where the needle is hidden. Often if the child can see the parent is upset they will become anxious and upset, which will make the child anxious for the next injection. Some areas of the body are less painful for injections like the lower adbomen, injection sites do need to be rotated. But i think you should discuss options with your diabetic nurse specialist.

welshmumof3boys asked: How important is it to encourage children to be active in order to help prevent childhood diabetes?

Sheena McKellar answered: Exercise is important for all children, this alone will not prevent your child developing diabetes. Dietary factors need to be considered.

L6HJH commented: Keeping a child active should be a must as it not only keeps them fit and healthier but it keeps them happier and helps them sleep better at night which is so important for children's development.

DanDanalan asked: Hi, how common are 'honeymoon periods' for children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and how long do they typically last?

Sheena McKellar answered: They are not very common and the variation in this "honeymoon period" can be extensive from a few days to weeks, up to months even a year. There is no typical time. It will be variable depending on each individuals condition.

Anonymous3 asked: Also, have you got any tips on helping children explain diabetes to other kids their own age?

Sheena McKellar answered: There are books available and information leaflets from your diabetic nurse specialist and diabetes UK to help explain the condition to other children. These are often very helpful. They focus the informtion on condition rather than an illness.

Joel asked: If you have diabetes when you are pregnant, does this mean the baby will be born with diabetes?

Sheena McKellar answered: No this does not mean your baby will be born diabetic. Many women develop gestational diabetes which resolves after pregnancy, it can increase the birth weight of the baby.

Anonymous7 asked: If my child is a bit on the overweight side what are their chances of contracting diabetes later on in life.

Sheena McKellar answered: Being only a bit overweight is usually not a problem. Your child will only develop diabetes if they continue to be overweight throughout their life. This would usually be type 2 diabetes or what used to be known as maturity onset diabetes.

welshmumof3boys asked: What would be the right age to start teaching your child how to manage their diabetes themselves?

Sheena McKellar answered: Usually the aim is to start teaching your child to manage their own diabetes about the age of 9.

welshmumof3boys asked: Are their any support groups that children can gain support and advice from?

Sheena McKellar answered: There are online forums and also Diabetes UK has information on local support groups. A child specific website is listed below.

Emma asked: Hi, is there any routine monitoring that can be carried out to check if a child has diabetes?

Sheena McKellar answered: There are no routine tests that would be done to screen a child for diabetes. This is only done for adults as they are most likely to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. If the child developed any of the symptoms listed below, then you would need to see your GP for examination and testing.

  • thirst
  • weight loss
  • tiredness
  • frequent urination.

Symptoms that are more typical for children include:

  • tummy pains
  • headaches
  • behaviour problems.

northernmum asked: Hi, My daughter has Type 1 and her sister has hypoglycemia - is it likely she will become type 1?

Sheena McKellar answered: Hypoglycaemia is caused by too much inslin production or not taking in enough food. Type 1 diabetes is where your body does not produce any insulin so you end up Hyperglycaemic. So your daughter does need to be seen by your doctor to find out why her blood glucose is low. This does not mean she will develop type 1 diabetes.


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