Last Saturday, 14 November was World Diabetes Day. This is a topic that I find people are quite hesitant to talk about. But it is so important that more is know about it, especially since COVID 19. More importantly, it starts with us as parents to teach our children to have healthy habits, especially is Diabetes stems generically. According to research, at least four out of five parents cannot recognise the risks of diabetes in their families. This, coupled with the rapidly expanding problem of childhood obesity in South Africa, means that the country’s children are facing severe and significant health challenges. As the spotlight turns to World Diabetes Day, what can parents do to minimise the risks of their children becoming obese and developing Type 2 diabetes? Dr Iqbal Karbanee, CEO of Paed-IQ BabyLine, shares more insight on this below:
What is the significance of World Diabetes Day in the South African context?
According to research, at least four out of five parents cannot recognise the risks of diabetes in their families. This, coupled with the rapidly expanding problem of childhood obesity in South Africa, means that the country’s children are facing severe and significant health challenges. The 2019 South African Child Gauge Report found that child obesity continues to the rise in South Africa. At least 13% of children, under the age of five, are obese, while one in four children is malnourished and has stunted growth. Worryingly, South Africa has one of the highest obesity rates in the world. As obesity rates increase so does the risk of developing adult onset Diabetes in children.
What is the connection between Type 2 diabetes and obesity?
It is not a low rate of physical activity that can lead to obesity, but rather a poor, carbohydrate rich diet. The dynamic of a rapidly urbanised population exposed to a myriad of food choices has led to major dietary changes. Coupled with socio-economic and genetic factors, obesity is a complicated disease that can lead to Type 2 diabetes. Both these lifestyle diseases are 100% preventable. In adults we call this the Metabolic Syndrome: obesity, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
Why addressing obesity in children is now critical?
Childhood obesity, coupled with the paradox of under-nutrition, has reached epidemic proportions in South Africa, and COVID-19 has only made it worse. Obesity is a co-morbidity meaning that if your child is suffering from carrying excess weight, he or she is at increased risk of complications if diagnosed with the Coronavirus. In addition, the risk of not addressing obesity in childhood is lifelong physical, psychological and emotional consequences.
How can parents recognise signs of diabetes in their children?
Type 1 Diabetes is the result of the body not producing enough Insulin. When this happens, the levels of glucose in the blood cannot be correctly controlled and can go too high or too low. Parents and caregivers need to be aware of the signs and symptoms children experience as they can develop over a short space of time – usually a few weeks or a month or two:
- Increased intake of water. The child will start being excessively thirsty and will want to drink water often
- Increased frequency of urination: The child will pass urine very frequently. A smaller child may start wetting themselves at night after previously being dry.
- The child is eating more but losing weight. Children with uncontrolled diabetes have major fluctuations in appetite but tend to lose weight very quickly.
- Tiredness. The child with low glucose in the blood will be very tired and the overall energy levels decrease.
- Children with sudden onset diabetes may have a crisis called ketoacidosis. This will result in the child appearing very sick, lethargic, dehydrated with sometimes even drowsy. This is an emergency that requires immediate treatment.
Type 2 Diabetes, is the adult onset type of Diabetes associated with excessive weight gain. This leads to Insulin resistance and can result in hypertension and cardiovascular disease in the long term.
How nurses can help in the management and prevention of diabetes?
Recognising these signs, and knowing whether or not to go to the doctor can be tricky, which is why nurses play a crucial role in the prevention and management of diabetes. This is the reason for the 2020 World Diabetes Day campaign theme being centred around nurses, who support those living with diabetes. Not only can they help parents recognise the signs of diabetes, but they can also prevent, manage and educate. For parents whose children have been diagnosed with diabetes, it can be a confusing time, signalling a major change for the entire family, and leaning on professional, qualified and friendly nursing staff can help with managing the impact of the condition.
I hope that the above questions gave you all more insight on this matter. Take care of your health as well as those of your loved ones.