Know the 4 T's of Type 1 Diabetes

30/10/2019

Claragh Gibney, a year 9 pupil at St Colman’s, Ballynahinch was diagnosed three years ago with type 1 diabetes after her mum Teresa took her to her GP after noticing a number of symptoms.

Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented and occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to produce insulin. It is the most common type of diabetes in children and young adults.

Claragh’s mum Teresa explains: “She was a perfectly healthy nine year old. She went to school and attended dance classes; it wasn’t until we went on holidays that she started to get sick.

“We noticed her asking for drinks – water, juice or lollypops, anything to quench her thirst. Then she started to go to the toilet a lot, but I thought it was just the heat and because she was drinking so much. A few days later she started becoming very tired, she didn’t want to do anything, it all happened so quickly.

“It was only when we went to the GP, they did a urine sample and requested an emergency blood sample. That was when type 1 diabetes was mentioned.”

Every year between 100 and 130 children develop type 1 diabetes in Northern Ireland.

Dr Bríd Farrell, Assistant Director of Service Development and Screening at the Public Health Agency (PHA), said: “Children can develop type 1 diabetes at any time. We therefore want to raise awareness of the four most common symptoms of type 1 diabetes to make sure all children who develop the condition are diagnosed early”.

“We are urging parents to make themselves aware of the symptoms and if you do notice symptoms, I would urge you to get your child’s blood sugar checked that day.”

Symptoms in children and young people can develop over a few days or weeks and parents and carers should look out for the ‘4Ts’:

Toilet – going to the loo a lot, bed wetting starts unexpectedly;
Thirsty – child being really thirsty;
Tired – feeling more tired than usual;
Thinner – losing weight or looking thinner than normal.

With type 1 diabetes, early diagnosis is important in children, otherwise their condition can deteriorate rapidly with serious consequences such as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA occurs when the body starts to run out of insulin. This causes harmful substances called ketones to build up in the body, which needs urgent medical attention and hospital admission.

Dr Farrell continued: “If we diagnose type 1 early, we can start early treatment and avoid diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and we can also sometimes avoid hospital admission.

“Keeping an eye out for the 4Ts can result in earlier diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. If parents are concerned about a child they should have their blood glucose (sugar) checked either in the GP surgery or local pharmacy.”

Teresa concluded: “With Claragh, all the symptoms didn’t present at the same time, it was over the course of two weeks. I would urge parents to make themselves aware of the 4Ts and if they notice any of the symptoms to speak to their GP.

“Claragh is now doing really well, she has an insulin pump, she knows the importance of what she puts into her body, she reads the food packaging and weighs her own food. She does everything that she did before including her dancing, she is just amazing.”

There are other symptoms aside from the 4Ts that can indicate type 1 diabetes – for further information on the condition, see www.pha.site/type1

DKA is an emergency and needs to be treated in hospital immediately. For further information on the condition, see www.pha.site/dka

To listen to Claragh's story, click here