How to Manage the Cold or Flu with Diabetes

ada logoThis guest blog was written exclusively for from The American Diabetes Association, an organization that is leading the fight against the deadly consequences of diabetes and fighting for those affected by diabetes in commemoration of American Diabetes Awareness Month. The Association funds research to prevent, cure and manage diabetes; delivers services to hundreds of communities; provides objective and credible information; and gives voice to those denied their rights because of diabetes. Founded in 1940, our mission is to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. For more information please call your local American Diabetes Association office at 1-888-DIABETES (1-888-342-2383) or visit The American Diabetes Association.

Runny nose. Upset stomach. Whatever illness it is, it can make you feel miserable. It is hard enough to be under the weather but it is even more difficult to handle being sick if you have diabetes. 

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), people with diabetes who develop an illness are at risk for serious complications if they don’t take care of their diabetes.  Blood glucose levels can increase or decrease to dangerous levels if left unchecked. Ketones, a waste product created when the body begins to use stored fat for energy, can build up, especially in those with type 1 diabetes, if a person does not take insulin at regular intervals.  Left unmonitored, high ketone levels can lead to ketoacidosis, which can lead to coma or death.

The American Diabetes Association suggests that people with diabetes have a plan in place with their health care team before illness strikes in order to avoid getting worse. It is also critical to get a flu shot every year to potentially avoid getting sick all together.

The ADA offers tips to manage diabetes if you are under the weather:

• Check, please! – Check blood glucose levels every three to four hours. Also, if you have been instructed by your health care team, check for ketones in your urine every few hours.
• Don’t stop insulin or medications – Unless your health care provider tells you otherwise, continue taking insulin to balance out the battle your body’s stress hormones are fighting. 
• Nourish a cold – Even if you have lost your appetite, it is important to try to eat.  The ADA recommends 15 grams of carbohydrates every hour or so. 
• Stay hydrated – If you are vomiting or have diarrhea, or have a fever, try to drink a cup of fluid each hour to prevent dehydration.  If your blood glucose level is too high, try sugar-free liquids like water, tea, or broth.  If your blood glucose level is low, try drinking liquids with approximately 15 grams of carbohydrates in them, such as ½ cup of apple juice or one cup of milk.
• OTCs? – Talk to your health care team before taking any over-the-counter cold or flu medicines.  Some medicines can raise your blood glucose or blood pressure levels.
• Call the Doctor – Contact your health care provider if there is a rise in ketones or if there are ketones in your urine for more than 12 hours; if you are vomiting or have diarrhea for more than six hours; if you have a fever that keeps going up or one that lasts more than a day; if you are having abdominal pain, or if you cannot control your blood glucose levels.

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