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Increase in Type 2 Diabetes In Children Caused by Pandemic

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Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital
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A health professional at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital checks on a diabetic patient.

During a normal year, Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital diagnoses around 16% of children that have diabetes with Type 2 diabetes. Between March and October, they've already diagnosed close to 40% of patients with Type 2 diabetes.

This story was updated Monday, Nov. 16, at 3 p.m.

Distance learning, stress eating junk food and lack of exercise have led to increases in Type 2 diabetes during the COVID-19 pandemic and it has some experts worried about the increase in children.

Dr. Mauricio Flores is a pediatric endocrinologist and said the increase in kids is concerning because it reflects an increase of diabetes in the general population.

“It feels like we are in an obesity pandemic on top of the pandemic,” he said.

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The Type 2 form of diabetes occurs when the body doesn't produce enough insulin on its own.

Health problems caused by it include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, joint pain and sleep apnea, a disorder where breathing repeatedly starts and stops.

Some signs of Type 2 diabetes include obesity and dark pigmentation of the skin around the neck, underarms, groin and joint-surfaces like the knuckles and elbows. Other symptoms can include fatigue, blurred vision and heavy breathing.

Flores said that increased urination despite normal water intake is one of the most important symptoms. He also said children may have no energy.

“Kids may say they have to take frequent naps because they’re feeling so fatigued and tired,” he said.

However, Type 2 diabetes is preventable with consistent exercise and a good diet. Parents have to make sure their children avoid eating too many sweets.

Flores says it’s also important to note the cultural influences in our diets.

“With Hispanic, Latino and Caribbean backgrounds, I would say that yes, we love fried foods and carbs. And as long as we monitor portions, I think we should be okay,” Flores said.

He also stresses that parents have to step in and be proper role models. They have to spend time with their families outside.

“It doesn’t take very long, to go out, spend one hour, with your loved ones and have a great time,” he said.

This post was updated to add additional details on symptoms and to clarify the cause of the disease.