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A couple of years ago, when my daughter Nella was potty training, she started holding on to her poo and became constipated. At the time, I wrote a blog explaining how, thanks to the training I’d been given as a helpline advisor for ERIC, I knew to intervene quickly with macrogol laxatives. After a stressful couple of weeks, Nella overcame this hurdle - something which can affect many children at this stage.

Girl with hands on faceNella was not keen on the idea of school!

Sudden onset of bedwetting

This autumn, Nella reached another one of life's key milestones - starting school. Over the summer holidays, she would cry if she even heard the words ‘September’ and ‘uniform’! She was tired going on short walks and really thirsty just before going to sleep on a couple of separate occasions. She then did lots of wees through the night and woke up in a wet bed for the first time since coming out of nappies. I put it down to nerves, but there was a nagging doubt creeping into the back of my mind. 

Type 1 diabetes? 

From my training as a continence advisor at ERIC, I knew that Bedwetting after a period of dryness (known as secondary nocturnal enuresis) can happen for various reasons. These include constipation, a urinary tract infection and a period of stress or change in a child’s life. In rare cases however, a sudden onset of bedwetting, or needing the toilet more frequently, can be a sign that a child has developed Type 1 diabetes. This is an auto immune condition which causes the level of glucose (sugar) in your blood to become too high. It happens when your body stops producing enough of a hormone called insulin which controls your blood sugars. Needing to drinks lots more than usual is the body's way of trying to flush out the sugars and protect itself. 

Getting confirmation 

Concerned, I booked an appointment with our GP and this set in motion a distressing chain of events. In less than 12 hours, we went from a simple blood sugar test being done, to a rapid diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. We had quickly to cope with the shock that our healthy-looking little girl now has a serious, lifelong condition. Nella’s now adjusting to a new way of life requiring regular finger prick checks and insulin injections every day at home and school supported by her fantastic teacher and team of teaching assistants. 

Girl in hospital bed Nella in hospital after diagnosis

Recognising the signs

This rollercoaster experience has left me feeling very keen to raise awareness of the key signs of Type 1 Diabetes. These are neatly summed up by Diabetes UK’s ‘4 Ts campaign’  - Toilet, Thirsty, Tired, Thinner.  

Hear children explaining more in this short video:

Parents and carers should take their child to see a doctor if they notice any symptoms associated with Type 1 diabetes. These can include excessive thirst, frequent weeing, bed wetting, weight loss, hunger, blurred vision, tummy pain, vomiting, thrush and tiredness. 4 signs of Type 1 diabetes

How common is it?

Every year in England around 2000 children are diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, but frequently doctors and families are tragically missing the early warning signs. Early identification is crucial to ensure that children and young people who develop it do not become ill with Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). This is where raised blood glucose level can lead to the early stages of organ damage if not treated quickly and brought under control. Abnormally high blood glucose level can lead to coma or even death.

Is Type 1 like Type 2? 

97% of children with diabetes have Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 is quite different from Type 2 diabetes which is a progressive condition whereby the body becomes resistant to insulin but it can be possible in some cases to reverse this illness with changes to diet and lifestyle. 

Thank you ERIC! 

I will be forever thankful that, due to the knowledge I’ve gained from working at ERIC, Nella’s diabetes was picked up early and before she’d got more poorly. She’s doing brilliantly thanks to the amazing paediatric team at the RUH Hospital in Bath and a huge amount of support from family, school and friends. I’m also very grateful for the encouragement given by people we’ve only recently met who have reached out to share their own experiences of living with Type 1 themselves or are caring for a child with this condition.

What if your child has started bedwetting?

I must stress that if your child has started bedwetting after a prolonged period of dryness, this can be for a variety of reasons. It should always be checked out by a health care professional and treated in the same way as ‘primary nocturnal enuresis’. Find out more about the causes of bedwetting and how it should be treated by downloading our Advice for Children with Night Time Wetting

Go to the Diabetes UK website for more information and support for children living with diabetes.