Heat can hide diabetes symptoms

Cathy O'LearyMidwest Times

Perth experts are warning parents to be aware of the symptoms of diabetes after reports of children being diagnosed late.

Doctors are worried that symptoms such as excessive thirst and tiredness can be dismissed as harmless during WA’s hot summer months, particularly if children are very active.

WA’s peak diabetes funding group, Diabetes Research WA, said the disease could be hard to detect in warmer weather and it was important families knew the early warning signs.

Executive director Sherl Westlund said rates of type 1 and type 2 diabetes were rising in Australian children, including a doubling in type 1 over the past two decades.

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“Symptoms such as being excessively thirsty and hungry, losing weight, passing urine more and feeling unusually tired can be easier to dismiss in WA’s hot summers when kids are more active, so we’re urging mums and dads to know the signs,” she said.

Professor Liz Davis, clinical lead of Princess Margaret Hospital’s department of endocrinology and diabetes, said spreading awareness of the warning signs was vital.

“More paediatric cases of type 1 diabetes are diagnosed in winter in WA but educating parents about early warning signs is critical,” she said.

“We’re finding that more of the children being diagnosed are presenting with diabetic ketoacidosis, which is a serious condition that results from a delay in diagnosis and can lead to diabetic coma.”

When Sophie Anti was constantly thirsty and losing weight in the summer of 2013, the then eight-year-old’s parents put her classic symptoms down to the hot weather.

Her mother Carolyn said she felt guilty when Sophie was finally diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

“We have a pool and she was constantly in and out of it, and didn’t have much energy, but the doctors said it was probably just a virus and she needed to rest,” she said.

“But she became very unwell, dramatically losing weight in a few weeks, and by the time she was finally diagnosed she was so ill she almost ended up in intensive care.”

Now 11, Sophie has her diabetes well managed with an insulin pump.

She is helping to raise awareness about the need for continuing research.

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