Type 2 diabetes in children has tripled during the pandemic

Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 7:39 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A new study from the American Diabetes Association shows pediatric cases doubled nationwide during the pandemic.

Health experts at Children’s of Alabama said that number has actually tripled in our state.

They said this rise in cases is another symptom of the coronavirus pandemic, which made it more difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Dr. Ambika Ashraf, with Children’s of Alabama, said she’s seeing a drastic increase in type two diabetes in children.

She said 86 patients were diagnosed in 2018. That number held steady in 2019. But that number more than tripled in 2020 with 290 new cases.

“During the pandemic schools shut down, more children are staying at home, there is social isolation, not a lot of physical activity, they don’t have places to go and do physical activity, so that has limited a large amount of children from doing regular physical activity and exercise,” Dr. Ashraf said.

Dr. Ashraf said increased screen time and food consumption is also contributing to the problem.

“What they consume is highly processed foods, high caloric food consumption, and also what we are noticing is many of these children are seeking health care delayed,” Dr. Ashraf explained.

Dr. Ashraf said more children are coming to the hospital with serious complications like kidney failure, significantly high blood sugar, and diabetic ketoacidosis, or DKA. It happens when the body starts breaking down fat too fast, causing the blood to become acidic.

She said the solution is multi-pronged and begins with strong community engagement.

“We need to make sure parents understand the importance of physical activity, having regular eating behaviors…healthy eating behaviors, and also the importance of having regular health maintenance visits with their doctor,” Dr. Ashraf said.

She added that children need regular diabetes screenings and encourages parents and caregivers to look for symptoms of diabetes like a darkening of the skin around the neck, increased urination, extreme thirst, and unexplained weight loss.

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