Concerned about the signs of diabetes in kids?
Diabetes – the autoimmune disease causing your pancreas to not produce the hormone insulin – can be a life-changing condition.
But, these days, there are loads of effective ways to stay on top of it.
So, there’s no need to despair.
Instead, the best place for every mama to start is to recognize the condition in their little one.
And for that, we all need to know the key signs of diabetes in kids.
Important caveat: If you’re in any doubt about your child’s health, talk to your healthcare provider. They’ll be able to help you better than any internet research can, that’s for sure.
In this article: 📝
- What is diabetes?
- What are the signs of diabetes in kids?
- What is usually the first sign of diabetes?
- What are red flags for diabetes in children?
- What age does childhood diabetes show up?
What is diabetes?
Starting from the top, diabetes is a complex condition that comes in two main types:
- Type 1 diabetes: Also known as juvenile diabetes, this is a genetic condition in which the immune system gets confused and attacks your pancreas. It’s not actually very common. The American Diabetes Association estimates one person in 400 under the age of 20 has it.
- Type 2 diabetes: Type 2 diabetes in children is even less common. People usually get it when they’re a lot older. It can be related to lifestyle and diet, but there is thought to be a genetic component as well.
Both conditions affect the way that your child’s body produces, and absorbs insulin – the hormone your pancreas (an underrated organ, actually) produces to regulate your body’s blood sugar levels.
Without insulin, blood sugar can go a bit wild – and this can cause issues with all sorts of different parts of your little one’s body.
However, scientists have come up with lots of really effective ways to keep type 1 diabetes in children and adults under control.
All you need to do is be able to spot the key signs of the condition.
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
What are the signs of diabetes in kids?
As a mama, you’ll know your child better than anyone.
And, if anything is up, you’ll notice.
While that might annoy them later in life, in matters of health, your eagle eye is a useful superpower!
So, in terms of the signs of type 1 diabetes in children, here’s what you need to look out for.
Something really crucial though: type 1 diabetes symptoms tend to kick in together and quite suddenly.
The chances are that you won’t miss them.
Here are the 3 most common symptoms of undiagnosed diabetes:
Increased thirst and hunger
It’s normal for kids to eat and drink a lot.
But if your child wants to guzzle a lot of liquid suddenly – or is complaining of serious hunger more than usual – this might ring some alarm bells.
It happens because the excess sugar in their blood pulls liquid from everywhere else in their body.
If the sleepyhead is even sleepier or drowsier than usual, it could be a warning sign.
Without that insulin, the sugar in their blood can’t get into their cells, meaning they won’t have the energy they need.
More thirst means more liquid in the body.
That means more pee.
Meanwhile, their body tries to expel the excess blood sugar.
If your child is regularly wetting their bed (even if they are potty trained) or is taking very frequent trips to the bathroom, this might be worth your attention.
What is usually the first sign of diabetes?
The very early signs of diabetes in kids tend to be a combination of increased thirst and increased urination.
If you notice this, a trip to the doctor can put your mind at rest.
In babies, these symptoms can be a little more difficult to notice (given that they sleep all the time anyway!).
However, if you’re having to change their diaper more times than usual for a sustained period of time – or if they have frequent diaper rash – it could be a sign of diabetes.
What are red flags for diabetes in children?
The symptoms of diabetes above aren’t the only ones to watch out for, though.
Other signs of type 1 diabetes in children include:
- Blurry vision: If your child struggles to focus – or complains of vision problems – diabetes could be the reason why.
- Weight loss: Your child might suddenly lose weight. If so, it could be that their energy stores are shrinking.
- Nausea and vomiting: Sometimes diabetes can cause children to vomit or feel unwell.
- Irritability or changes in behavior: Mood swings can be common with diabetes.
- Wounds don’t heal: If your child is in the rough and tumble years of childhood, they’ll have a few scraped knees. The wounds not healing as quickly as normal is another key sign.
- Fruity breath: A weird one, sure. But excess blood sugar can mean that your kid’s breath smells sweet or fruity.
- Frequent yeast infections in girls: Yeast feeds off sugar – and with more sugar in your system going unused, this (usually very useful) fungus can get overgrown.
By the way, the difference between type 1 and type 2 symptoms is that type 2 symptoms tend to develop more slowly. And type 2 is much less common in kids.
What age does childhood diabetes show up?
There’s actually no particular age when diabetes shows up in kids.
While very rare under the age of 5, your child can develop the symptoms as a young child or as a teen.
It might even arrive on the scene in adulthood.
Type 2 diabetes is a little different.
The older you are, the more likely it becomes.
However, it is becoming increasingly common in younger people (although it’s still even less common than type 1!).
There is no set age for this condition either.
How long can a child have diabetes without knowing?
According to one survey in the UK, as few as 14% of parents know the warning signs of diabetes in kids.
This means that their children can go for weeks or months without knowing they have diabetes.
But now that you know the signs, they’ll be easier to spot.
And remember we’re a good starting but always speak to a medical professional if you have any doubts at all.
You’ve got this.