are kids with diabetes more at risk for COVID-19?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people living with diabetes fall into the “high-risk” category when it comes to COVID-19. People in this category, which also includes individuals that are immunosuppressed or over the age of 65, are more likely to become severely ill if they contract the virus.
But, the categorization has led to some confusion in the type 1 diabetes community. What does this mean for those living with type 1?
The general consensus is that the high-risk group when it comes to diabetes is really those without well-managed type 1 diabetes, or with other chronic diseases (like heart disease or lung disease). This is supported by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), and our very own Paul Breyer, MD, chief of endocrinology/diabetes.
“Those at greatest risk are people with consistently elevated blood sugar levels and those with a second chronic disease,” says Dr. Breyer. “People living with type 1 are at no greater risk of contracting COVID-19 than an average person. And, if someone with type 1 does contract the virus, they are not necessarily at a higher risk of developing serious complications from the disease.”
During this time of uncertainty, Dr. Breyer suggests those with type 1 take standard precautions to prevent contracting the virus, including good hand hygiene, maintaining physical distance, and working to improve blood sugar control. To prepare for possible illness related to COVID-19, he suggests having the antiemetic, Zofran, at home in case of vomiting.
The JDRF also recommends the following steps for people with type 1 to prepare during the pandemic:
Monitor your blood glucose and ketones more than usual.
Continue a normal schedule of medications.
Stock your cabinets with items that will help you keep up your carbohydrate intake in a healthy way.
Ensure that you have diabetes medical supplies on hand and have access to refills. If your insurance allows, try to switch to a 90-day supply of medications.
And, if your child does not have type 1, it’s always important to be on the look-out for symptoms associated with the diabetes. Signs include:
Unwanted or unexplained weight loss
Fruity smelling breath
If your child has any of these symptoms, it’s important to communicate your concerns with your pediatrician. They can do a simple blood glucose test to see if your child has high blood sugar, which may indicate a diabetes diagnosis. It’s critical that kids exhibiting these symptoms are seen quickly by a medical professional, so please do not delay care.
About type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition where the pancreas loses its ability to make insulin because the body's immune system attacks and destroys the cells that produce insulin. Once a person has type 1 diabetes, it does not go away and requires lifelong treatment. People with type 1 diabetes depend on daily insulin injections or an insulin pump to control their blood glucose levels.