Story by: Norton Children’s on December 9, 2022
Our team of pediatric endocrinologists provides specialized care for children with diabetes and support for families to help manage their child’s condition.
COVID-19 can increase the risks of diabetes complications. Although children with diabetes are not more likely to get COVID-19 because of their condition, it can lead to other health concerns. Viral infections and high blood sugar also can cause inflammation in diabetes patients, which contributes to more serious illness and diabetes-related complications.
“Parents who help ensure their child’s diabetes is well managed can help lower their child’s risks of getting very sick,” said Sara E. Watson, M.D., pediatric endocrinologist with Norton Children’s Endocrinology, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine.
Diabetes and COVID-19 (or any viral infection) can increase the risk of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which is potentially life-threatening for diabetes patients.
Studies have shown that children with Type 1 diabetes have experienced more severe diabetic ketoacidosis during the COVID-19 pandemic.
DKA can happen when a child gets sick or doesn’t get enough insulin. Without enough insulin, sugar in the blood can’t get into the cells, so blood sugar levels rise above the healthy range (hyperglycemia). As a result, the body uses fat for fuel, which sends ketones into the blood. This causes the blood to become too acidic, which can impact how well the body’s organs function.
It’s important to learn the signs of DKA and to talk with your diabetes care team about when to check for ketones and steps to take if they are present.
Symptoms of DKA include fatigue, excessive thirst/urination, or nausea and vomiting, which can lead to more severe symptoms, such as fast, deep breathing or loss of consciousness. Parents should check a child’s blood or urine for ketones anytime a child with diabetes is sick, has symptoms of DKA, or their blood sugar is high.