MIAMI (CBSMiami/CBS) – Researchers are looking into a possible link between COVID-19 and new cases of type 1 diabetes in children.

Significantly more cases of pediatric diabetes were reported at the peak of the pandemic.

Flint Debor went from being a perfectly healthy 13-year-old to being admitted to the hospital this spring.

“He just started to get progressively worse. And after a while I got really worried because he became very skinny, he still felt very fatigued, he started having tummy troubles,” his mom, Ulrike Nau-Debor, said.

Doctors diagnosed Flint with type 1 diabetes but also wanted to know if he had COVID-19.

Researchers with Imperial College London decided to look into a possible link after some hospitals reported about double the number of type 1 diabetes cases at the height of the pandemic compared to the same period in previous years.

“Viruses have always been thought to play a role in possibly triggering type 1 diabetes in children that are susceptible, so we feel that COVID-19 may be behaving in a similar manner,” says Dr. Karen Logan who is with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and the supervising author of the study.

Some of the kids tested had active COVID infections, others like Flint had antibodies. Seventy percent of the children in the study, newly diagnosed with diabetes, were starting to run out of insulin in their bodies, and half of those children were in serious condition.

Researchers say this is a much higher rate than they normally see.

The next step for researchers will be to analyze a larger number of cases to see if they can prove a direct link.

“We really don’t want to alarm parents, but I think it’s great if the awareness of early features of diabetes are out there in the public,” says Dr. Logan.

Parents should watch children for four symptoms:

  • Constant thirst
  • Frequent restroom visits
  • Tiredness
  • Weight loss

Doctors say an early diagnosis can help get kids back to leading a healthy life.