Diabetes steadily increasing in Sarasota schools

The number of K-12 students with diabetes in Sarasota County schools has increased by 50 percent since 2011, according to figures from the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County.

In 2011, 83 students were identified as diabetic in county schools. That number jumped to 128 in the current school year. The steadily growing rate has put increased pressure on school health services, said Suzanne DuBose, a registered nurse and supervisor of health services in Sarasota County schools.

“Having a student with diabetes frequently increases the number of health room visits since these students typically visit the school clinic two to three times per day,” DuBose said.

Type 1 diabetics, who make up the bulk of the county’s diabetic students, require lifelong daily insulin injections. In schools, the shots are required to be administered by registered nurses. But Sarasota County does not have a full-time RN at every school, relying instead on RNs that travel throughout the district.

There are few recent studies on the prevalence of diabetes in kids, but according to the National Institutes of Health, as obesity rates in children continue to soar, type 2 diabetes, a disease that used to be seen primarily in adults age 45 and older, is becoming more prevalent among children.

A study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and the NIH found a 20 percent jump in type 2 cases between 2001 and 2009. Researchers called the increase substantial, and most experts agree that growth is due to weight and sedentary lifestyles.

While studies have shown an increase in the number of children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, most researchers agree that there is no single cause, DuBose said. Genetics plays a role, but exposure to certain environmental factors may also trigger the disease.

“The most important thing parents can do is to watch for symptoms of type 1 diabetes such as frequent urination, thirst and weight loss,” she added. “The earlier it’s detected, the better.”