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January 10, 2022

COVID-19 may raise the risk of diabetes in adolescents, CDC study says

New research points to a higher rate of diagnoses 30 days following the onset of a COVID-19 infection in those under 18 years of age

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COVID Diabetes Andrew Jansen/News Leader-USA Today Network

A new study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that children with COVID-19 may be more at risk for diabetes. Lead researcher Dr. Sharon Saydah says that parents should look out for the signs and symptoms of diabetes in children, especially those who have had COVID-19.

People under the age of 18 are more likely to receive a new diabetes diagnosis 30 days after an infection with COVID-19 compared to those without it, according to a new study released on Friday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The pandemic has disproportionately impacted people with the chronic health condition, who are at a higher risk of severe illness as well as a worsening of their diabetes symptoms. June 2021 study supported by the National Institutes of Health also found that an acute COVID-19 infection can lead to diabetes. 

For this study, researchers divided groups of people ages 18 and younger based on several factors, including those who had a COVID-19 diagnosis, those who did not, and those who had a pre-pandemic diagnosis of an acute respiratory illness not related to COVID-19. 

They excluded anyone who already had pre-existing diabetes in an effort to see the rates of new diagnoses during the pandemic. 

Investigators collected data from two databases of COVID and non-COVID patients: IQVIA and HealthVerity. The dataset from IQVIA included nearly 1.7 million people, 80,893 of which had COVID-19. The HealthVerity dataset included 878,878 people, of which 439,439 people had COVID-19. 

New diabetes diagnoses were 166% more likely in those under 18 with COVID-19, according to data found through IQVIA. New diagnoses were 31% more likely in those under 18 with COVID-19 according to HealthVerity data. They were also 116% more likely to occur in those with COVID-19 than with those who had a pre-pandemic respiratory infection. 

The report notes that the much lower percentage found among those in the HealthVerity database could be because the research only took information from patients who had a COVID-related health visit. But lead researcher Sharon Saydah says that the smaller percentage does not mean that it is less likely. 

"Even a 30 percent increase is a big increase in risk," Saydah told The New York Times

The researchers state that the association with COVID-19 could be attributed to the impact that infection has on the organ system, which increases the risk of diabetes. They also write that the association could potentially be attributed to a pandemic-related increase in body mass index, which is a major contributing factor in diabetes risk. 

Investigators point to the results as a way to highlight the importance of implementing preventative measures like vaccination in all children who are eligible to receive one. Currently, anyone ages 5 and above is eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. Those looking to schedule an appointment can do so through the national vaccine database

Saydah also notes the importance of other mitigation efforts, like masking and monitoring children for other chronic or long-term illnesses following COVID-19 infection. 

The datasets did not allow for researchers to look at several key pieces of information in relation to diabetes and COVID-19, including other risk factors associated with diabetes. The investigators suggest more studies to look at the rates of COVID-19 and diabetes association in each of these groups. These include race and ethnicity, pre-diabetes, and obesity level. 

Saydah says that it's important for parents to be aware of the signs and symptoms of diabetes so they can get their children tested, especially if they have had COVID-19. 

Signs and symptoms of diabetes in children include increased thirst, frequent urination, extreme hunger, unintentional weight loss, fatigue, irritability and behavioral changes, stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting, according to the CDC

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