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San Antonio diabetics face treatment challenges while trying to avoid COVID-19 exposure

UT Health has been utilizing more telemedicine visits to keep up with these patients

SAN ANTONIO – Thousands of insulin users in San Antonio, especially children, are facing new challenges that could put their health at risk.

Now they must monitor their own glucose levels, get the proper dosages, and all the while try to avoid exposure to COVID-19 infections.

These are tough times to be diabetic, but UT Health San Antonio is taking new measures to make sure no one goes without their lifesaving medicine, or a doctor’s watchful eye.

It’s complicated by new fears of going to the doctor's office regularly during the pandemic, and the fact that the insulin injections given at school by the school nurse have not been available for months.

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Dr. Rabab Jafri, a pediatric endocrinologist from UT Health, said, “Oftentimes parents have come to rely on the school nurse to administer either the long-acting insulin, which is what keeps them safe from going to a diabetic ketoacidosis, or at least to make sure that their blood sugars are in good control.”

Like a lot of clinics and hospitals around the country, UT Health has been utilizing more and more telemedicine visits to keep up with these at-risk pediatric patients.

Dr. Jafri said it’s been crucial to utilize technologies that allow downloadable information of blood sugar levels and other health data to reach their offices, without risking unnecessary contact with the general public.

“For instance, we are able to see blood sugar patterns for these children, and instead of making them wait months until we could make those decisions after restrictions are lifted, we can do that now virtually over the telephone, over a video,” she explained.

The next issue is diabetes supplies. Families that split their insulin supplies between home and school have been managing the full supply in-house, which may be new for parents.

“It's important for them to now make sure that they have enough insulin and diabetes supplies at home, making sure you have enough for at least a month or so,” recommends Jafri. She also notes that ketone strips that test the level of ketones in the urine are also a must have in good supply.

Diabetic ketoacidosis is a life-threatening complication of diabetes that results from reduced insulin levels, and must be avoided at all costs. Not monitoring these levels can wind up costing a family a trip to the ER and an emergency.

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