UTAH (ABC4) – Doctors at Primary Children’s have noticed something startling. They say there was a 25 percent increase in children they see with Type 1 diabetes in 2021. They’re researching to better understand if this could potentially be linked to COVID-19.

Mallory Rogers says that her two-year-old daughter Addie got COVID within a week of starting daycare.

“We had done everything right, we isolated, got vaccinated and we waited until everything seemed to be clearing up, and then she got COVID in her first week of daycare,” Mallory said.

Addie had a cough but seemed to have a mild case overall. A week later, Mallory and her husband noticed some strange symptoms. Addie needed her diaper changed constantly and seemed to be drinking more.

“How quickly that change happened between her being a healthy toddler and her being very, very skinny,” she said.

Mallory, worried, took her to the doctor.

“The on-call pediatrician listened to the symptoms and thought it might be a yeast infection,” she said.

Despite treatment, Addie didn’t seem to be getting better, so Mallory took her to another doctor that said she needed to go to the emergency room at Primary Children’s. That’s where they learned Addie had Type 1 diabetes.

“She’s only two. Now she’s going to have this diagnosis for the rest of her life, she will be taking insulin for the rest of her life,” said Mallory.

A study from the CDC shows that children who were infected with COVID-19 were more likely to develop diabetes than those who weren’t. 

“They found anywhere from thirty percent to one hundred and fifty percent increase in diabetes in children,” said Dr. Vandana Raman the Division Chief of Pediatric Endocrinology and Diabetes at the University of Utah Health and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital. The study doesn’t differentiate between Type 1 and Type 2, but Dr. Raman says most of what they’ve been seeing is an increase in Type 1.

“Ninety-five percent of our patients have Type 1 diabetes. We see Type 2 in about five percent of our patient population. So at this time, the numbers we are seeing is an increase in Type 1. In terms of Type 2, that is not something we are fully aware of or we’ve seen an increase yet.”

Utah doctors are also trying to better understand this potential connection.

“We received approval to participate in a national study to explore this further, we are continuing to look closely at the numbers at our hospital compared to the previous years. We are also looking at how many of these patients with a new diagnosis of diabetes are diagnosed with COVID or any other viruses we have studied or evaluated them for,” she says.

She says that some viruses are known for creating a higher risk of developing diabetes in children, and COVID-19 could likely be one. Dr. Raman says that COVID-19 could trigger diabetes by targeting cells in the pancreas – affecting insulin production.

Mallory says that following her instinct and knowing what symptoms to look out for may have saved her daughter’s life. She says it’s important for parents to be aware, so they can take their children to the doctor as soon as they notice something is off. 

Dr. Raman says some symptoms to look for are excessive thirst, weight loss and fatigue.