Any time your child is sick, it can be stressful and even more so if you don’t know why your child is feeling unwell.

For an autoimmune disease like type 1 diabetes, it is important to know the symptoms so that your child can be diagnosed as soon as possible. These symptoms can sometimes appear to be something familiar, like the flu, so you need to be sure your child gets medical attention early on for a proper diagnosis. Undiagnosed and untreated type 1 diabetes can be serious—and even fatal.

National numbers

Type 1 diabetes is one the most common chronic diseases in children; more than 18,000 children and teens less than 20 years old are diagnosed with type 1 each year and these numbers are predicted to increase according to the Search for Diabetes in Youth Study.

The onset of type 1 diabetes can occur at anytime, but it most commonly occurs during puberty when girls are between the ages of 10 to 12 years old and when boys are 12 to 14 years old. But it is becoming more common to see instances of type 1 diabetes in young children under the age of five.

Looking for type 1

It’s important to remember that there was nothing a child (or an adult) did to cause type 1 diabetes and there is nothing you could have done to prevent it. However, current diabetes treatments are excellent so an early diagnosis is important for good health. Occasionally, type 1 diabetes may run in families, but it is more common for a child with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes to have no family history of diabetes.

If your child is developing type 1 diabetes, here is a list of the symptoms and warning signs to look for:

  • Extreme thirst

  • Frequent urination

  • Overnight urination or return of bed-wetting

  • Increased appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Blurry vision

  • Flu-like symptoms with nausea and vomiting

  • Drowsiness or lethargy

  • Dehydration

Although discovering that your child has diabetes can be overwhelming, learning how to help manage and cope with your child’s diabetes will help make the process less intimidating. With healthy eating, exercise and attention to the diabetes treatment plan, which includes frequent blood glucose monitoring and insulin delivered by injection or pump, there is no reason why your child can’t live a long, healthy and fulfilling life.