Children's Minnesota in the News, Mighty Blog

CDC study finds COVID-19 may increase risk of diabetes in children

Signs and symptoms a child may have diabetes

Pediatricians and other health experts are noticing a concerning trend in kids during the COVID-19 pandemic – an increase in diabetes. A recent study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found children who had recovered from COVID-19 may be at a higher risk for developing diabetes.

“We have seen a significant increase in the number of children being diagnosed with diabetes,” said Dr. Jennifer Abuzzahab, a pediatric endocrinologist at the McNeely Pediatric Diabetes Center and Endocrine Clinic at Children’s Minnesota.

We talked with Dr. Abuzzahab to help parents understand what the new research means for their family.

Important findings

According to the study, children who got COVID-19 were more than two and a half times as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes compared to kids during the same time who did not have COVID-19. The increases were seen both in kids who had been sick with COVID-19 and those who had the virus but didn’t have symptoms. The researchers did not differentiate between type 1 or type 2 diabetes in the results, or whether kids had been vaccinated for COVID-19.

“We want parents to understand that while the study found COVID-19 may increase the risk of diabetes in kids, not all kids with COVID will get diabetes,” said Dr. Abuzzahab.

The research did not identify how the virus increases the risk of diabetes in kids. Dr. Abuzzahab said the links between COVID-19 and diabetes are likely complex, but the two diseases may be connected because the virus attacks specific cells in the pancreas, which produces insulin in the body. For patients with diabetes, the body can’t make insulin or the insulin doesn’t work in the body like it should.

Signs and symptoms parents should look for

Given the link between COVID-19 and diabetes, it’s important for families to know the signs of symptoms of diabetes, so they know what to look for in their kids.  Many of the children in the CDC study were diagnosed after having an episode of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a life-threatening complication that needs emergency medical treatment.

Symptoms of diabetes can include:

  • Frequent urination. Significant changes in patterns of urination, especially at night.
  • Extreme thirst.
  • Increased hunger.
  • Weight loss.
  • Fatigue.

“Parents concerned their child has diabetes should immediately contact their primary care clinic to get a blood sugar measurement, even if their child has not had COVID-19,” said Dr. Abuzzahab.

Protecting against COVID-19

The CDC research highlights the importance of COVID-19 prevention strategies for kids – including getting all eligible kids and adults vaccinated and boosted. “The best protection is prevention,” Dr. Abuzzahab says.

Dr. Abuzzahab reminded families:

  • Children ages 5 and older should get vaccinated against COVID-19 and boosted if they are eligible.
  • Make sure kids are surrounded by adults who are vaccinated and boosted.
  • Wear properly fitting masks in public.
  • Wash hands frequently.
  • Cover your cough.
  • Stay home if you or your child are sick.

More COVID-19 resources can be found here:

Dr. Abuzzahab on KSTP

Dr. Abuzzahab also spoke about this topic on KSTP, watch her interview below.

Nick Petersen