Children who contract Covid-19 are at double the risk of developing type 1 or 2 diabetes, according to a new study.

Diabetes Scotland said the US research added to a “concerning” body of evidence that suggests the virus is triggering the condition in some children and adults, but it is not yet clear why.

There is some suggestion that Covid may interact negatively with the cells that make insulin, which controls blood sugar.

Researchers said other acute respiratory illnesses were not as strongly correlated with diabetes and said the results strengthened support for vaccinating children against Covid-19 and diabetic screening after infections.

Data collected from more than 2.5million babies and children up to the age of 17 found that those who were infected with the virus were 2.66 times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes than those who had never had it.

READ MORE: Signs and symptoms of Omicron in children 

They were also 2.16 times more likely to develop the disease than children who caught other respiratory illnesses.

The results, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, come as new UK data showed young children and babies are proportionally more likely to be hospitalised with Omicron compared to older children than with previous variants, but the cases are still mild.

Of children hospitalised with Covid-19, 42 per cent were under 1, compared to around 30% in previous waves, the early data showed, though the researchers emphasised that the illnesses were mild.

A low-dose version of a Covid vaccine for five to 11-year-olds has been approved for use in the UK but a decision on vaccinating all children has not yet been made.

The vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech contains one-third of the adult dose and is widely used in other countries – more than five million children have been given it in the US alone.

READ MORE: Small rise in number of children admitted to hospital with Covid-19

Both type 1 and 2 diabetes involve the body’s impairment in producing or using the hormone insulin, which regulates blood sugar.

Type 1 is an inability to produce insulin, is often diagnosed in adolescence and is considered an autoimmune disease, while type 2 decreases the body’s ability to use the insulin it produces and frequently develops in middle age.


Scientists say illnesses, including bacterial infections, put stress on the body which lead to increases in insulin needs. For someone who is pre-diabetic, this could push them over the edge.

Symptoms of type 1 include frequent urination, increased thirst, weight loss, tiredness and nausea or vomiting.

Dr G Todd Alonso, associate professor of paediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, said doctors are also concerned that increased rates of obesity amongst children may increase the prevalence of type 2.

The study lists a number of limitations including a lack of information on factors which could have affected the incidence including prediabetes, ethnicity and obesity.

Angela Mitchell, National Director at Diabetes Scotland, said the findings were concerning, but there was still more research required on the subject to improve understanding.

She said:“This study adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that coronavirus might be triggering diabetes in some children and adults.

“While this is concerning, there’s still a lot more to learn about whether coronavirus is directly causing new cases of diabetes.

READ MORE: New Omicron symptom could be early warning sign 

“Research is ongoing, and it’s important we gain a full understanding of the links between new cases of diabetes and coronavirus, and whether there are other factors in play.

“It’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of diabetes, such as unexplained weight loss, feeling thirsty or tired, or going to the toilet more often.

“Some diabetes symptoms, like fatigue, may appear similar to those brought on by the coronavirus, and it could be easy to mistake one for the other.

“If your child is experiencing any symptoms of diabetes – whether they’ve had coronavirus or not – you should seek help from your GP practice immediately.”

Since 1996, the number of people diagnosed with diabetes in the UK has risen from 1.4 million to 3.5 million.

Diabetes prevalence in the UK is estimated to rise to 5 million by 2025.