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COVID-19 is associated with increase in new diagnoses of Type 1 diabetes in kids, researchers say

People with diabetes who sign up for an Aetna insurance plan focused on diabetes care can get blood sugar meters and test strips free of charge.
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COVID-19 is associated with an increase in new diagnoses of Type 1 diabetes in children, according to a new study by researchers at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

COVID-19 is associated with an increase in new diagnoses of Type 1 diabetes in children, according to a study by researchers at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

Researchers found a 72% increase in Type 1 diabetes diagnoses in patients 18 years and younger who had had COVID-19 in the last six months, according to the study published in September in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Researchers analyzed electronic health records of more than one million patients.

Pediatricians should be alert for an influx of new Type 1 diabetes cases, especially since the omicron variant of COVID-19 spreads rapidly among kids, said Dr. Pamela Davis, a professor and co-author of the study.

“There are many long complications of COVID-19,” she said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a bump in several diseases as COVID-19 settles in among us.”

Nearly 15 million children have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. About 6.85 million of those cases occurred in 2022, including at least 289,000 since the end of August.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease and occurs because the body’s immune defense attacks the cells that produce the hormone, insulin, according to a media release from CWRU. Insulin production is stopped, which causes the disease. The study suggests that COVID-19 is connected to this increased autoimmune response.

Families who are high-risk for Type 1 diabetes should be especially alert for symptoms after a child is diagnosed with COVID-19, Davis said. Symptoms include increases in appetite, thirst and urination.

“When is child becomes lethargic, that’s a very bad sign,” Davis said. “Parents need to be alert to those sorts of things.”

Some parents noticed symptoms of Type 1 diabetes after the first month of being diagnosed with COVID-19, Davis said.

Tyisha is a reporter/producer for Ideastream Public Media’s health team.