Holiday risks for kids with diabetes

By | May 22, 2019

Holiday fun and weekend distractions cause a dangerous drop-off in children and teens with type 1 diabetes taking their medication, a University of Adelaide study shows.

The break from school-week routines saw a 20 per cent reduction in adherence to taking medications to manage their condition.

The research, published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, shows that children with type 1 diabetes find it especially difficult to remember to take their metformin blood sugar tablets in addition to insulin during school holidays.

Dr Alexia Peña, senior lecturer at the university’s Robinson Research Institute and Women’s and Children’s Hospital paediatric endocrinologist, said chronic non-communicable diseases including diabetes were increasingly prevalent in childhood.

“Treatment is becoming more complex, with combination therapies being common to manage the disease and associated conditions,” she said.

The 12-month study — involving 90 Adelaide children and teens aged 8-18 years — used data gathered from electronic dose-monitoring devices which provided a reliable dosing history by recording the date and time a child accessed their medications. This was backed by tablet counting.

“There was approximately a 20 per cent reduction in treatment adherence during school holidays, weekends and public holidays in children with type 1 diabetes,” Dr Peña said. “The impact of non-adherence to medical treatment in childhood has serious consequences for an individual’s health and substantially increases demand and expenditure on health systems.

“Clinicians should be aware of adherence issues during holidays and weekends. Targeted reminders and additional strategies are necessary to improve adherence during these less-structured periods for schoolchildren and their families.

“Similar challenges of adhering to drug therapies were found in a study of children with cystic fibrosis which suggests that these problems may extend to other chronic diseases.”

McKenzie Tilbrook, 17, of Brukunga, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a baby. Her mum, Kerri, backed the study’s findings.

“There are various distractions in holiday time which can be an issue with medication,” she said. “It is not as routine as the usual school week.”

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