Nine out of 10 parents do not know the four main symptoms of Type 1 diabetes, according to a new survey commissioned by Diabetes UK.
The IPSOS Mori survey of 1,170 parents found that just nine per cent were able to correctly identify that frequently urinating, excessive thirst, extreme tiredness, and unexplained weight loss are all symptoms of the condition.
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 4 Ts
To address this lack of awareness, today we launch our campaign to highlight the "4 Ts" of Type 1 diabetes symptoms: Toilet, Thirsty, Tired, and Thinner. The campaign posters use children’s fridge magnets to spell out the 4 Ts, with the aim being to help 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.
"End this appalling situation"
Barbara Young, Chief Executive for Diabetes UK, said, "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.
"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.
"Make it your business to know"
"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.
Get tested straight away
"As well as making parents and those who look after and work with children aware of the symptoms, we need 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.
Generalist healthcare staff
"This is why we will also be targeting our 4 Ts campaign at generalist staff such as 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. 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."
The 4 Ts of Type 1 diabetes video
We've made this short video to help let people know about the 4 Ts. Watch and share it to help spread the word.
Amelia Lily backs the 4 Ts
The pop singer Amelia Lily, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was three years old, is backing the 4 Ts campaign. She said, "I feel very strongly that every parent and carer needs to know about Diabetes UK’s 4 Ts campaign. My symptoms included drinking a lot more than normal and going to the toilet a lot. I was very lucky as my nana realised what was wrong with me because my uncle had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 14.
"It's important to know how to spot the signs"
"It’s so important that anyone who looks after children – not just parents but teachers, carers and other family members – knows how to spot the signs of diabetes. So many children are still getting really poorly before they are diagnosed and I want to help put a stop to that."
If you would like to find out more, Amelia was interviewed in the November 2012 issue of Diabetes.