DUK says nine out of 10 parents unaware of type 1 symptoms

By | 14 November, 2012

fourEveryone’s second favourite diabetes charity – Diabetes UK  – delivered their latest press release round to my kennel today. They’re launching a new campaign banging on about the “4 Ts” of Type 1 diabetes symptoms. You can read the full press release below; for those too lazy to read, there’s a lovely animated version on YouTube; I’m off to go and chase next door’s cat. Woof!

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Nine out of 10 parents do not know the four main symptoms of Type 1 diabetes, according to a new survey commissioned by Diabetes UK.

The IPSOS Mori survey of 1,170 parents found that just nine per cent were able to correctly identify that frequently urinating; excessive thirst; extreme tiredness; and unexplained weight loss are all symptoms of the condition.

According to Diabetes UK, this lack of understanding is one of the reasons that a quarter of children with Type 1 diabetes are only diagnosed once they are already seriously ill with diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a life threatening condition which needs immediate specialist treatment in hospital.

To address this lack of awareness, the charity has today launched a campaign to highlight the “4 Ts” of Type 1 diabetes symptoms: Toilet; Thirsty; Tired; and Thinner. The campaign posters use children’s fridge magnets to spell out the 4 Ts, with the aim being to help ensure parents, carers and anyone who works with children knows the symptoms and understands that a child who has any of them urgently needs to visit a doctor immediately and get a test.

The campaign will also raise awareness among healthcare professionals that they need to test for Type 1 diabetes as soon as a child presents with any symptoms. This is because onset can be extremely quick.

Barbara Young, Chief Executive for Diabetes UK, said: “The symptoms of Type 1 diabetes are so obvious and pronounced that there is no reason why every child with the condition cannot be diagnosed straight away.

“But the stark reality is that a quarter of children with Type 1 diabetes become seriously unwell before being diagnosed and we need to bring this appalling situation to an end. I fear that unless there is a big increase in awareness of symptoms, we will continue to see hundreds of children a year become seriously ill completely needlessly.

“We need to get the message across that if you have a child or if you work with children, you need to make it your business to know the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes. We hope the 4 Ts will make them easier to remember and so help ensure children with the condition get diagnosed at the right time.

“As well as making parents and those who look after and work with children aware of the symptoms, we need to increase understanding that a child who has any of the 4 Ts needs to be tested straight away. This is because onset can be so quick that a delay of a matter of hours can be the difference between being diagnosed at the right time and being diagnosed too late.

“This is why we will also be targeting our 4 Ts campaign at generalist staff such as GPs, practice nurses and those working in accident and emergency. While many of these healthcare professionals already do excellent work in correctly identifying the 4 Ts and ensuring children are tested quickly, we hear about some awful cases where parents are told their child has a virus or a urine infection and are told to come back for a test if the symptoms persist. We need to stop this kind of thing happening and the only way to do this is to make sure every healthcare professional understands that a child with any of the 4 Ts needs to be tested for Type 1 diabetes immediately.”

The pop singer Amelia Lily, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was three years old, is backing the 4 Ts campaign. She said:  “I feel very strongly that every parent and carer needs to know about Diabetes UK’s 4 Ts campaign.  My symptoms included drinking a lot more than normal and going to the toilet a lot. I was very lucky as my nana realised what was wrong with me because my uncle had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 14.

“ It’s so important that anyone who looks after children – not just parents but teachers, carers and other family members – knows how to spot the signs of diabetes. So many children are still getting really poorly before they are diagnosed and I want to help put a stop to that.”

The nine per cent figure is the percentage of parents who can identify all four of the 4Ts of Type 1 diabetes. Awareness of the individual symptoms is:

•    Excessive thirst: 58 per cent (Thirsty);
•    Tiredness/lack of energy: 57 per cent (Tired);
•    Frequently passing urine: 38 per cent (Toilet);
•    Weight loss: 28 per cent (Thinner).

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) happens when the body is unable to break down glucose because there isn’t enough insulin. Instead, it breaks down fat as an alternative source of fuel. This causes a build-up of a by-product called ketones. This can lead to coma and even death.

About 500 of the 2,000 children who develop Type 1 diabetes in the UK every year have DKA by the time they are diagnosed.

6 thoughts on “DUK says nine out of 10 parents unaware of type 1 symptoms

  1. brian

    I wonder about the potential effectiveness of this campaign – apart from raising concern amongst the general population; which in IMHO is not good things to do; but so many medical charities seem to have the knack of doing it, perhaps it deliberate.

    Doing the maths – stay with me people:

    12 million under 16’s – 2001 census (2011 census is too complex for me to deal with)
    2000 diagnosed pa
    25,000 GPs.

    Therefore on average a GP will see an undiagnosed diabetic child every 12.5 yrs ie (25,000/2000). Probably two or maybe three in a GP’s full length career.

    On average a parent will see an undiagnosed diabetic child every 6000 yrs (12 million/2000). Clearly, not a credible event. The parent without the benefit of diabetic knowledge is never going to spot they symptoms and if the parent has the prior diabetic knowledge they don’t need the campaign.

    What impresses me is that 75% get diagnosed pre-DKA; given this the system must be working as well as can be expected. So why the campaign?

    1. Paul

      100% agreement from me, particularly the pre-dka part, most parents send their kids to the docs when they’re ill & docs tend to recognise diabetes!

      Of course the cynic in me says that the useless organisation that is DUK needs to spread fear & hysteria to keep getting their wages paid.

  2. Liz

    “What impresses me is that 75% get diagnosed pre-DKA; given this the system must be working as well as can be expected. So why the campaign?”

    My little girl was one of the unlucky ones who had DKA 2 months ago. Rushed into hospital after the GP did NOT pick up the signs. GPs need education too. Alarming lack of knowledge of diabetes amongst nursing/ward staff at the hospital too, but that’s a long story!

  3. brian

    @liz Hope your daughter is getting there. I have been in the same position as a parent; except that the hospital ward sister diagnosed DKA due to undiagnosed diabetes immediately my daughter entered the ward in my wife’s arms.

    The point I was trying to make is a 75% success rate identifying an infrequent event is good and maybe the best you can expect. And that attempting to raise awareness with this campaign would have no beneficial effect to that rate due to the infrequency and length of time that people retain awareness.

    If DUK really wanted to make a difference to the 75% success rate then I suggest that they commission research to find the reasons why 500 pa children are diagnosed via DKA. At the moment it looks to me as though DUK Fund Raising Dept has identified the problem and is using emotion to raise funds when DUK Research could actually be solving the problem they have identified.

    A commissioned research project could sort this out by reviewing the latest 500 cases of DKA to see if there is a pattern; rather than wasting money standing on corners asking the public questions designed to give the answer to suit your campaign. If there is a pattern a reduced incidence of DKA may be possible.

    Suggest the DUK Chief Ex needs to take action to bring Fund Raising and Research Depts together to achieve benefits for people with diabetes.

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