Type 1 diabetes symptom campaign launched in the UK

by Sarita Sheth on November 21, 2012

Raising awareness of the 4 T’s

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

It says that 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.

The IPSOS Mori survey of 1,170 parents found that just 9% were able to correctly identify that frequently urinating, excessive thirst, extreme tiredness, and unexplained weight loss are all symptoms of the condition.

As a result it has launched a new campaign to address this lack of awareness. Called the 4Ts it spells out Toilet, Thirsty, Tired, and Thinner as the main symptoms parents should be aware of.

The aims is to 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.

‘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,’ said Barbara Young, chief executive of Diabetes UK.

‘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,’ she explained.

‘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,’ she added.

As well as making parents and those who look after and work with children aware of the symptoms, the charity wants 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.

The campaign is also aimed at 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,’ said Young.

‘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,’ she added.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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