The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that: “A new study shows children under age 18 were at greater risk of being diagnosed with diabetes more than 30 days after a COVID-19 infection than those who weren’t infected with the virus or those with pre-pandemic acute respiratory infections (ARI).”
For more, see my earlier post: Why Are Parents Still Afraid of the COVID-19 Vaccine? Is Misinformation to Blame?
Many parents have shown interest in the CDC’s report. Schools and teachers should also be concerned because when children are sick, they struggle to learn. Teachers are also in a position to notice early warnings signs of diabetes—excessive thirst, frequent bathroom trips, exhaustion, and weight loss.
I promised to do more research. This is what I found.
A Research Study from the United Kingdom: COVID-19 and Diabetes
Researchers from the Imperial College in London said,
"Our analysis shows that during the peak of the pandemic the number of new cases of type 1 diabetes in children was unusually high…. this study is the first to show a potential link between COVID-19 and the development of type 1 diabetes in some children. [this occurs because] …the coronavirus spike protein might be able to attack and destroy insulin making cells in the pancreas.”
The researchers go on to say, “Type 1 diabetes can be managed through insulin injections. However, children can become very unwell if the disease is not recognised and treated early. [symptoms to watch for] …feeling thirsty, going to the toilet (passing urine) frequently, feeling tired and looking thinner (weight loss).”
Research so far does not prove a direct link between COVID and diabetes. All we have so far is a correlation. That means that we are finding an increase in diabetes among children who have had COVID. This is a definite reason for concern but not proof that COVID caused the increase in diabetes. We need more research. Parents whose children have had COVID should definitely watch for the symptoms of diabetes and have their children’s blood sugar levels tested by their doctor.
One family’s story reminds all of us how important it is to watch for symptoms early. I hope you will take a moment to watch this heartbreaking video. By becoming more aware of the symptoms, you might be able to save the life of a child.
The CDC Study
Concern started when media interest spiked after the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported an increase in diabetes among children who had been diagnosed with COVID. The CDC concluded,
“Persons aged <18 years with COVID-19 were more likely to receive a new diabetes diagnosis >30 days after infection than were those without COVID-19 and those with prepandemic acute respiratory infections. Non–SARS-CoV-2 respiratory infection was not associated with an increased risk for diabetes.”
The CDC, again, is basically stating that there is a correlation. Although we do not as of yet have proof that COVID causes diabetes, such a correlation between COVID and diabetes should definitely concern all parents and doctors.
Since the CDC report is fairly technical, I found this easy-to-understand summary from Li Cohen, a reporter for CBS News. Cohen stated,
“[children] …diagnosed with COVID-19 … were 166% more likely than those who did not have COVID to be diagnosed later with diabetes.”
“…children who had COVID were also 116% more likely to develop diabetes than those who had non-COVID respiratory infections prior to the pandemic. Non-COVID respiratory infection was not associated with diabetes…."
So, there is a connection between COVID and diabetes. Researchers are just not sure exactly what that connection may be. Yet, the connection between COVID and diabetes is too strong for us to merely brush it off as coincidence.
Cohen went on to interview Dr. Sheela Natesh Magge, director of the pediatric endocrinology division at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Magge stated that,
“…the development of diabetes could be attributed to how COVID affects the body's organs, such as the "direct attack of the pancreatic cells…. There's some evidence that COVID-19 infection could affect insulin secretion…. The stress of any infection can increase blood sugars and can make you have a higher risk of any of the complications of diabetes because your blood sugars could get higher."
The doubting Thomas’s may be saying, “OK, my child had COVID, got over it, and now is fine.” That attitude is exactly what the researchers are trying to warn people against. Diabetes does not always immediately follow having COVID. Diabetes can develop anywhere from 30 days after a COVID infection to even longer. Check with your doctor and watch for the warning signs. Early detection of diabetes is extremely important.
Is there any other research supporting these claims?
I found other research supporting this concern.
- Dr. Jennifer Sherr, an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Yale, said,
Dr. Sherr again reminds us that “correlation doesn’t mean causation.” No one is saying that just because your child had COVID that they will automatically get diabetes. The research is saying to watch for the warning signs of diabetes. Be on the alert.
- Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, after studying data over the past five years, found that “…the incidence of new-onset T1D [type 1 diabetes] during the COVID-19 global pandemic in 2020 and 2021 appeared to have increased compared with previous years.”
- Some research indicates that the increase is not just with Type 1 diabetes. Researchers are also seeing an increase with Type 2 diabetes.
“…the estimated prevalence of diabetes among children and adolescents increased significantly for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.”
- Dr. Sharon Saydah, a researcher at the CDC, explained that so far research does not tell us whether “post-COVID Type 2 diabetes” would be a chronic (long term) condition or a “transient condition” that might eventually resolve with treatment. She does remind everyone that Type 1 diabetes is not reversible. It never goes away. She went on to say that vaccinating all eligible children against COVID, masking, social distancing, and taking every precaution is the best way to protect the children.
- What the CDC report did state is that for over 2.5 million children under the age of 18, those who had been diagnosed with COVID-19, they were:
“… about 2.5 times more likely to receive a new diabetes diagnosis a month or more after infection.”
These numbers are more than high enough for us to take the threat seriously We must not ignore this research. I will keep you posted as new research emerges.
So, the conclusion is, yes, we have seen an increase in diabetes from children who had COVID. Does COVID cause diabetes? We do not know. Research is continuing. What we do know is that we should all be on the alert and watching for the warning signs of diabetes with children.