Investigators in the United Kingdom saw improved blood glucose levels among children and teens with type 1 diabetes during the first 12 weeks of COVID-19 lockdown, according to a study published by The Endocrine Society.
Aspects of normal life outside of the pandemic could create difficulties for children with type 1 diabetes, the study authors said, including pressures around food in school. Without these challenges, the investigators said children might be able to better manage their diabetes.
“The findings demonstrate the difficulties faced by patients and families managing type 1 diabetes around school pressured, meals away from home, social life, and peer pressure,” said lead researcher Neil Lawrence, MBChB, in the press release. “Children and families found it easier to manage this disease when they were forced to stay at home. This helps us to understand the pressure that is put on patients and families when trying to live normal busy lives with activities outside of the home. We need to give them extra support at school and when they go out socializing to prevent them from developing unfortunate complications in later life.”
Hospitals in the UK implemented many changes for individuals with diabetes and other chronic diseases during the pandemic. The researchers said they wanted to know whether these changes were detrimental to the care of children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes. They noted that some clinicians and families were concerned that remote consultations could result in poorer care.
To investigate, the researchers analyzed how well 180 children and teens in 2 UK communities controlled their diabetes in the 12 weeks preceding the national COVID-19 lockdown and compared these findings to the 12 weeks after the lockdown was put in place.
They found a significant improvement in blood glucose measurements in the 12 weeks after the lockdown, according to the study. The average blood sugar dropped, long-term blood sugar measurements dropped, and blood sugar readings showed less variability and a greater time in the range of blood sugar that the researchers asked them to aim for (3.9 to 10mmol/L).
“Managing type 1 diabetes around school, socializing, and extra-curricular activities is really challenging, and children with this disease need parents, teachers, and other caregivers to communicate well and work as a team to prevent long-term health complications that are caused by poor blood glucose control,” Lawrence said in the press release. “This gives us important insights into where advice, education, and support should be directed, as well as encouraging the use of remote video and phone consultations going forward. These approaches can be beneficial both for families and for clinicians.”