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Diabetes and children

Media release For immediate release November 16, 2007

Diabetes and children * no holiday for these young people

There's no holiday from rigorous management of Type 1 diabetes for thousands of school-age children as the summer holidays loom.

Children and young people with diabetes and their families face a lifetime commitment in managing this condition. So this year, Diabetes Awareness Week 2007, which runs from November 20-26, is dedicated to raising awareness of the needs of young people and children with Type 1 diabetes.

There are some 3,500 school-age and pre-school children with Type 1 diabetes in New Zealand * and at least 148 in the Waikato.

Posters and full-page advertisements in the national print media will highlight the week's "no holiday" theme for children and young people with Type 1 diabetes.

In Hamilton, a balloon release will mark the first day of Diabetes Awareness Week on November 20.

Diabetes Youth Waikato and the Waikato DHB's Local Diabetes Team have invited Waikato DHB deputy chair, Sally Christie, chief executive, Craig Climo, and Diabetes Clinic staff to help some of the Hamilton children with diabetes release 148 helium-filled balloons from Waikato Hospital's grounds, representing one balloon for every school-age and pre-school child in the Waikato area with Type 1 diabetes. (All media are invited to this event).

Several Waikato schools, including Ohaupo and Taupiri schools are running mufti days or special uniform days to mark Diabetes Awareness Week, or to mark World Diabetes Day on November 14 the week prior.

"There is no holiday from Type 1 diabetes for children and young people with the condition, or their families," says Crystal Beavis, who chairs the Youth committee of Diabetes Waikato. "Unlike Type 2 diabetes, the onset of Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented or delayed. And once it's diagnosed, children must learn how to manage their condition carefully, night and day, for the rest of their lives."

Each day children and young people with Type 1 diabetes have to do multiple daily blood sugar tests, inject themselves with insulin up to six or more times daily, and monitor their food and exercise carefully. Whether it is the daily trip to school or a holiday trip to the beach, every day out they have to pack their testing strips, their blood glucose monitor, and their insulin supplies along with their school books * or the boogie board and the bucket and spade.

"Every day these children and young people have to plan their activities and keep aware of what and when they're eating, and learn how to constantly balance their medication with what they are doing. It's a job for the whole family, and it's a tough regime, but these children and young people have to follow it to survive and to live healthy lives."

Type 1 diabetes is a genetic, autoimmune condition caused when the pancreas stops producing insulin. This condition can't be prevented or cured. It can occur at any age, but the most common age of diagnosis is among school age children. People with Type 1 diabetes must inject insulin several times every day to survive, and each injection must be calculated individually to balance that day's food intake and level of physical activity.

Children and young people with Type 1 diabetes can do the same things as their peers, but it takes a lot of support from their families and medical team to help them to reach their full potential, and to learn to be responsible for maintaining and balancing their own diabetes management and treatment.

Since 2001 there has been a 36 per cent increase in the number of people diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in New Zealand. Around 15,000 people have this condition, including 3,500 school age children and young people.

Note: Acknowledgements to the Hamilton branch of BOC Ltd, and to Balloons Funtastic, Tirau, for their assistance with the balloons release.

Fact sheet

Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented or cured. It occurs when the body's pancreas is unable to make enough insulin, and requires multiple daily injections of insulin to replace what the body cannot produce. Type 1 diabetes is also therefore sometimes called "insulin-dependent diabetes."

Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease, caused when the body's immune system destroys its own insulin-producing cells. It is a condition that has been documented for centuries, and it can occur in babies as young as six weeks old and in young adults in their 20s or even later, although the most common age of diagnosis is among school age children.

There are about 3,500 school-age and pre-school with Type 1 diabetes in New Zealand. This country has one of the highest rates of paediatric diabetes in the world, and numbers are estimated to be growing at 10% annually. The reason is not yet understood.

Before the discovery of insulin, Type 1 diabetes was fatal. Ironically, the insulin injections that keep these young people alive can also be fatal if the wrong dose is given. Insulin injections must be given multiple times daily, and the dose calculated each time on blood sugar levels, appetite and expected level of exercise. Blood tests must be done up to six or more times each day to manage the condition properly.

Managing Type 1 diabetes requires constant attention to balance a good diet and exercise alongside an individual insulin requirement. This management routine is stressful and relentless. Type 1 diabetes can lead to medical complications in later years if it is not managed rigorously.

Signs and symptoms:

* excessive thirst and drinking

* frequent passing of urine

* weight loss

* tiredness

* mood changes

* bed wetting

* hunger

* fungal infections

If these symptoms are present, urine is tested for glucose (sugar) and/or ketones. Glucose only spills over into the urine when the blood glucose is high and a high glucose level on a blood test confirms diabetes.

Quick facts

* Type 1 diabetes is not caused by eating too much sugar or any other foods.

* There is nothing that can be done to prevent Type 1 diabetes developing.

* Children and young people don't grow out of Type 1 diabetes.

* There are no symptoms of Type 1 diabetes until more than 90% of the insulin producing cells have been destroyed.

* There is no cure.


ENDS

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