Initial data indicate that children presented with higher acuity compared to the previous year
New data show that the incidence and acuity of type 2 diabetes in children increased significantly during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, with more pediatric patients hospitalized from March to December 2020 compared to the same time period in 2019. Findings from the retrospective chart review were presented as a late-breaking poster session at the virtual 81stScientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
Stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated risk factors for type 2 diabetes, including limiting physical activity, increasing screen time and sedentary behaviors, disturbing sleep, and increasing the intake of processed foods, which can all lead to weight gain. In fact, more than one in four Americans with diabetes report the pandemic disrupted their ability to obtain healthy food—a concerning trend as modest weight gain over a short period of time can increase the risk for long-term consequences such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. There is a lack of data on the incidence or severity of new-onset type 2 diabetes in the pediatric population during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The study compared the number and the acuity of hospitalizations for type 2 diabetes in children from March to December 2019 and the same period in 2020 at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge, LA.
The data analysis showed:
- In 2019, the hospitalization rate for new onset type 2 diabetes was 0.27% (8 cases out of 2,964 hospitalizations) compared to 0.62% (17 out of 2,729) in 2020.
- Children admitted to the hospital in 2020 had more severe diabetes with higher blood glucose, higher A1C (a marker of blood sugar over three months), and higher indicators of dehydration compared to children admitted in 2019.
- More children in 2020 also presented with serious conditions that typically require admission to the intensive care unit compared to 2019 like diabetic ketoacidosis (eight vs. three) and hyperosmolar hyperglycemic syndrome (two vs. zero).
- 23 of 25 children were African American and 19 children were male.
“While our study examined hospital admissions for type 2 diabetes in children at one center, the results may be a microcosm of what is happening at other children’s hospitals across the country,” said Daniel S. Hsia M.D., Associate Professor at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA, and lead author of the study. “Unfortunately, COVID-19 disrupted our lives in more ways than we realize. Our study reinforces the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle for children even under such difficult circumstances.”