The 4 Ts – Who needs to know the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes?

The short answer is “Everyone.” But to go into a little more detail, we believe that anyone who has contact with children and young people should know the 4 Ts of Type 1 diabetes – and what to do if they spot them.

Our story about the rate of Type 1 diabetes in children, and the article that appeared in the Metro on 2 January have generated a lot of comment online that we want to address.

As a parent of a child with Type 1 – or as someone with the condition yourself – you’ll know that the consequences of Type 1 diabetes not being diagnosed quickly can be devastating, but that these consequences are avoidable if a diagnosis is made quickly and the right care is given.

We hear many stories from parents who talk about how their doctor sent their child away with a virus or similar, and didn’t diagnose Type 1 right away – or even after two or three visits. Helping doctors and other healthcare professionals to recognise the symptoms is extremely important and reaching these audiences played a key part in the launch of our 4 Ts campaign.

We sent information and campaign materials including a pathway to diagnosis to thousands of healthcare professionals in December, and attended healthcare professional conferences towards the end of 2012 to take our message directly to this audience.

We also saw brilliant coverage in many healthcare journals and publications alongside getting in touch with all our own Professional Members to talk to them about the campaign. This work is continuing now in 2013 too and healthcare professionals will be a key focus of phase 2 of our campaign launching in March.

Teachers, nursery nurses and child minders are just a few other groups who we want to know the 4 Ts too – along with anyone else you can think of who could potentially spot any of the 4 Ts in a child.

What we also believe is that it’s important parents can spot the symptoms – and can have the confidence to insist on a finger prick test if they recognise any of the symptoms in their child should their doctor not pick up on them. Research we carried out prior to launching the campaign showed the 9 out of 10 parents are unaware of the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes and we would like to greatly reduce this number.

In an ideal world (apart from there being no diabetes of any type…) a parent would spot the symptoms in their child, visit their doctor, who would diagnose Type 1 diabetes there and then. But unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world. A diagnosis is often not given straight away and a child can become seriously ill.

By empowering parents with this knowledge – as well as healthcare professionals and those who work with children too – we can, however, take steps towards this ideal.

The article published in the Metro on Tuesday 2 January about the rates of Type 1 diabetes in children was completely incorrect, and upsetting for parents to suggest that not noticing the symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes has anything to do with the high rate, or that they are in any way to blame for it.

We contacted the Metro to complain and today (3 January) a correction was printed in the newspaper. However, a number of letters printed in the same edition of the paper are based on the original incorrect article.

We have sent this letter from our Chief Executive to the Metro this morning:


I was pleased to see that you have corrected your article that blamed parents for the high rate of Type 1 diabetes. But I was concerned that although one of the letters published yesterday mentions that the original article was about warnings from Diabetes UK, it is not made clear that we did not suggest or imply this.

So I would like to put it on the record that we are very clear, and always have been, that parents are in no way responsible for their child’s Type 1 diabetes. In fact, the causes of the condition are unknown and, certainly, they have nothing to do with diet or lifestyle.

What we were highlighting was how important it is that parents understand the symptoms of Type 1 diabetes – toilet, thirsty, tired and thinner – as increasing awareness of them could reduce the number of children who are already very unwell by the time they are diagnosed. And, of course, it is equally important that healthcare professionals understand that a child with any of these symptoms needs to be tested for Type 1 diabetes immediately.

Barbara Young
Chief Executive
Diabetes UK

With the targeting of our 4 Ts campaign we are not apportioning blame on anyone. Type 1 diabetes is no one’s fault and there’s nothing anyone can do to prevent a child from getting it. But what we can do is make sure that as many people as possible recognise the symptoms and children can get the right diagnosis quickly.

That’s what really matters, and we believe the 4 Ts campaign can help this happen.

You can help us raise awareness of the 4 Ts of Type 1 diabetes. You can order our campaign posters from our online shop (or download one from our website) and then put them up where people can see them. In your doctor’s surgery, at school, nursery, the supermarket, the cafe at the end of your road – anywhere.

The more people who see and learn the 4 Ts, the better.

Find out how to order posters and help raise awareness.

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It’s not just for kids – I’m 35 and I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, just 6 months ago whilst on holiday in Mallorca.

I was unknowingly suffering with the 4Ts of Type 1 Diabetes for about a month before my holiday and even my GP misdiagnosed me with viral tonsillitis and a dry mouth.

In June, I was rushed to the A&E and spent 3days in and out of consciousness with the life-threatening condition: Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). Only after another 3 days on a Spanish ward learning how to inject myself I was allowed to fly home. I cannot thank the Doctors and Nurses of Manacor Hospital enough for the care they gave me when my blood glucose level was dangerously high at 28.7mm/mol.
I am now managing to maintain healthy blood glucose levels with 4 insulin injections every day.

Diabetes UK – all I can say is – keep doing what you’re doing.
The more people who are aware of the symptoms and the more doctors who are reminded of the symptoms the better – I just wish I’d seen your 4Ts campaign before I lost 2 stone in weight and had to suffer from that dreaded thirst!

Your campaign to raise awareness to help children is admirable and essential, but there perhaps is another group that need attention. My husband, now age 70, was diagnosed when he was 50 with type 2 diabetes. He never thrived with the tablets prescribed for him and suffered really badly with hypo’s, especially during the night. He was given really awful advice and not very good support. He was put on insulin eventually and that did help a lot, but still received strange and incorrect advice, ( as we now know) from his practitioner, diabetic Nurse and hospital. About 5 years ago, after we moved to Spain, he was re diagnosed as Type 1, was given excellent care and advice and all has slotted into place. He takes 5 injections daily and is very carefully monitored, all with the Spanish NHS. who take a much firmer and structured approach. Our daughter, aged 31, has in the last 6 months been diagnosed in the UK with late onset type 1. When my husband was diagnosed incorrectly all those years ago, the approach was very casual and when we questioned the type 2 diagnoses, as he never really fitted the so called criteria, we were told on quite a few occasion, that he could not be a type 1 as he was too old. Hopefully this attitude has changed as we believe a swift, correct diagnosis may have saved him from many of the problems he now faces .

By pushing the 4 T’s it shows the uk the signs to look out for

It puts it in the mind frame of all adults, and keeps people thinking and catching the signs early enough so no damage is caused.

Everyone can relate to different illness by various campaigns and rightly so for the signs of diabetes now