Feb 2, 2022, 9:42:48 AM CST Dec 5, 2023, 2:55:11 PM CST

COVID-19 and diabetes in children

Are kids who had COVID-19 at an increased risk of developing type 1 or type 2 diabetes?

young girl wearing a mask while checking glucose levels young girl wearing a mask while checking glucose levels

In 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report indicating that children may be at an increased risk for developing diabetes after COVID‑19 infection. This made many parents wonder about their child's risk of developing diabetes, and what they can do about it. Soumya Adhikari, M.D., a pediatric endocrinologist at Children's Health℠ and Associate Professor at UT Southwestern, shares insights into what this report means and how parents can help keep their children healthy.

Can COVID‑19 cause diabetes in children?

This report from the CDC found some evidence that COVID‑19 infection may increase a child's risk for developing type 1 or type 2 diabetes. While it's important that parents are aware of the potential risk, Dr. Adhikari explains that this study is not definitive.

"These findings – that there is a 2.5x increase in the risk of being diagnosed with diabetes after COVID – are worthy of further study," says Dr. Adhikari. "However, the report had some significant limitations. Further research is needed to understand how much of this risk was based on COVID-19 infection, and how much risk can be attributed to other factors.”

Dr. Adhikari explains that the study is based on medical claims data. This type of data can illuminate trends, but it may not explain why those trends happen or all of the factors involved. Additionally, the report did not account for obesity, medications or other underlying conditions that may play a role in developing diabetes.

Are children who have diabetes at increased risk for COVID‑19 illness?

Having type 1 or type 2 diabetes can increase your risk for severe COVID‑19 illness.

"In general, people with diabetes are more likely to get sicker or experience worse complications from any viral infection in comparison to the general population," says Dr. Adhikari.

For children with diabetes, COVID‑19 increases the risk of developing diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a serious and potentially life-threatening complication of diabetes. If your child has diabetes, it's important to know the symptoms of DKA, and seek medical help if your child is experiencing these symptoms.

Monitoring your child after COVID‑19 infection

If your child had COVID‑19, it's important to monitor their health for any potential lasting effects and to contact their pediatrician with any concerns.

Dr. Adhikari says that this report serves as a reminder that all parents should be aware of the signs and symptoms of diabetes, and specifically, DKA. Early recognition of DKA can help reduce the risk of adverse outcomes when one is diagnosed with diabetes. Watch for any of these warning signs:

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid, deep breathing
  • Unexplained weight loss

If you are concerned about symptoms in your child, talk to your pediatrician. You can ask to get your child's fasting blood glucose level and/or a spot urine sample checked. Both of these simple tests can go a long way for early detection of diabetes and minimize the risk of a new diagnosis being missed.

Lastly, Dr. Adhikari encourages parents to continue to take steps to reduce the risk of COVID‑19 infection, including getting vaccinated.

"We are only just starting to understand the relationship between COVID-19 and diabetes," he says. "We will know more with each passing month for the next few years. For now, we can all take steps to minimize risk of COVID‑19 and COVID-related complications."

See more COVID-19 resources

Children's Health is committed to remaining a trusted source of health information and care for you and your family. See more resources to keep your family healthy at the Children's Health COVID‑19 hub.

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