You might not have known when you became a parent that you’d also become a detective. Childhood is full of growing pains, school-borne illnesses and weird, unexplained rashes and ailments, and it’s up to us to investigate and work with our child’s healthcare providers to get to the root of the issue. But sometimes the symptoms aren’t so obvious. Type 1 diabetes is an invisible threat as it can often affect our children’s health without blatant warning signs.

We’re breaking down four subtle yet significant indicators that your child might benefit from a type 1 diabetes screening. By staying attuned to these potential signs, we can proactively safeguard our children’s health and pave the way for a vibrant future.

4 hallmark symptoms of type 1 diabetes in kids and teens

1. Unquenchable thirst and frequent bathroom breaks

We’ve all been there—days when our little ones gulp down water like it’s going out of style, but what if this becomes their new normal? If you’re noticing your child guzzling water like a desert wanderer and making more bathroom trips than you can keep track of, it might be time to pay attention. While it’s totally normal for kids to stay active and hydrated, if they’re constantly reaching for their water bottle and taking pit stops, or having accidents or bedwetting that seems uncharacteristic, it could signal an issue. This could be a hint that their body is struggling to handle blood sugar levels effectively, possibly pointing to an underlying concern like type 1 diabetes. Don’t panic, but it’s a good idea to chat with your child’s doctor to make sure everything’s alright.

2. Persistent fatigue and low energy

Children seem to have boundless energy, but if you notice your little one suddenly trading in play dates for power naps, it might be time to investigate. When their usual vibrant vibes turn into a slump of low energy and perpetual tiredness, it could be their body’s way of saying, “Hey! Something’s up!” This might be a signal that their system is struggling to convert sugar into energy, possibly due to a lack of insulin. If your child’s fatigue lasts more than a few days, and you notice other concerning symptoms, reach out to your child’s pediatrician to discuss early screening for type 1 diabetes.

3. Unexpected weight loss and increased hunger

As a parent, you’ve probably been keeping a watchful eye on your child’s growth chart since day one. It’s normal for kids’ weight to fluctuate, but if your child is shedding pounds despite a healthy appetite, it’s worth taking notice. Sudden and unexplained weight loss might be a result of the body breaking down muscle and fat as an alternative source of energy when it can’t access sugar properly. This is one of the most noticeable symptoms of type 1 diabetes, so be sure to reach out to your child’s healthcare provider so you can work together to get your kiddo back on track.

4. Blurry vision and increased irritability

Growing pains come with the territory of childhood, but if your child starts complaining about blurry vision or if their teacher comments about their squinty view of the classroom board, it might be time to dig a little deeper. Elevated blood sugar levels can affect the eyes, leading to temporary vision problems. Fluctuating blood sugar levels can also impact mood and behavior, so if your child seems more irritable than normal (which may be challenging to discern given that adolescents tend to have bouts of moodiness), you may want to ask yourself if there are any other signs or symptoms of type 1 diabetes that would warrant a chat with your children’s doctor.

What to do if you notice symptoms of type 1 diabetes

If you notice one or more of these signs in your child, don’t panic, but don’t ignore them either. While these symptoms could be due to various factors, including growth spurts and childhood quirks, it’s always better to take early action. Your instincts as a parent are powerful, and when something doesn’t feel right, it’s important to trust that feeling. Consult your child’s healthcare provider for guidance and consider discussing the possibility of an early type 1 diabetes screening. 

Early screening is easy. You can do it at a doctor’s office, at certain labs, or even with an at-home test kit. The screening is a simple blood test that looks for diabetes-related autoantibodies. If the test finds 1 autoantibody, it means that your child is more likely to develop T1D than someone without antibodies, and if the test finds 2 or more, it means that the early stages of T1D have begun. In either case, you should talk to your child’s doctor to learn about what treatment options might be right for your family.    

As a parent, you always have your child’s well-being at heart. By paying attention to potential symptoms of type 1 diabetes, and taking control of your child’s health journey by talking to your child’s doctor about early screening options, you can help ensure your child’s happy, healthy and thriving future.