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Some Kids With Type 1 Diabetes Face High Risk of Severe COVID-19

MONDAY, March 22, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Poorly controlled type 1 diabetes significantly increases a child's risk of COVID-19 complications and death, researchers warn.

The risk of complications is 10 times higher in youngsters with poorly controlled type 1 diabetes than in those with well-controlled diabetes, according to a study presented Saturday at a virtual meeting of The Endocrine Society.

"This study shows keeping diabetic children's blood sugar under control is more important than ever during the pandemic," said lead author Dr. Manish Raisingani, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, in Little Rock.

Raisingani said the findings would help kids with type 1 diabetes and their families make better choices about the safety of various activities, including in-person schooling, during the pandemic.

Previous data suggests adults with type 1 diabetes may have a higher risk of COVID-19 complications and death, but there had been limited research on children.

For the study, Raisingani's team analyzed international data on 2,000 children under age 18 with type 1 diabetes and COVID-19, along with more than 300,000 kids with COVID-19 only.

The researchers assessed hemoglobin A1c levels in the children with diabetes. The blood test, which measures average blood sugar levels over the past three months, is the main test to help people manage their diabetes. Higher A1c levels are associated with diabetes complications, and the target for most patients is a level of 7% or less.

The study found that the risk of COVID-19 complications was 10 times higher in kids with A1c levels above 9% than in kids whose A1c was below 7%.

Kids with type 1 diabetes and COVID-19 were more likely to die, to require a breathing tube, and to develop pneumonia or septic shock than kids without diabetes who had COVID-19, the findings showed.

"Many parents of children with type 1 diabetes are wondering if it's safe to send their child to school during the pandemic," Raisingani said. "Our findings indicate that if their A1c is high, it would be best to have them attend virtual school, but if it's 7% or under, their risk is similar to other children without type 1 diabetes."

Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on type 1 diabetes.

SOURCE: The Endocrine Society, news release, March 20, 2021

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