Latest figures reveal that last year there were 3,317 cases of children in England admitted to accident and emergency departments with diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) warns Diabetes UK.
DKA occurs when blood glucose levels are high (hyperglycaemia) causing nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, rapid breathing and may eventually lead to coma. DKA requires urgent hospital treatment.
Emergency admissions are increasing
Children and young people under 18 accounted for over a quarter of the 12,326 emergency admissions for DKA, during the 12-month period from April 2006 to March 2007. In addition, the number of admissions for the under 18s with diabetes increased eight per cent compared to the previous year.
The UK has the fourth highest incidence of Type 1 diabetes in children (22 per 100,000 a year) in Europe and the lowest number of children attaining good diabetes control.
Greater awareness needed
Diabetes UK is also concerned that in many cases, DKA occurs because Type 1 diabetes is undiagnosed. Often diabetes is only diagnosed when DKA is identified.
The charity is calling for better education and awareness amongst parents and healthcare professionals of the early symptoms of diabetes including DKA and access to high quality specialist diabetes services for children and young people living with diabetes.
Action must be taken now
“The number of children being rushed to A&E with such a life-threatening complication is shocking", said Douglas Smallwood, Chief Executive of Diabetes UK.
"In previous research by Diabetes UK, specialist diabetes staff reported that cuts in diabetes services resulted in an increase in emergency hospital admissions.
"With increased awareness and education and more investment from the NHS in specialist paediatric diabetes care, the number of emergency admissions could be dramatically reduced. Action must be taken now to improve the quality of life for our children.”