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.
“People with diabetes have special considerations when they are under the weather,” commented Ann Albright, PhD, RD, American Diabetes Association President, Health Care & Education. “It is important to have a plan with your health care team in place before you become sick, to avoid getting worse. It is also critical to get a flu shot every year to potentially avoid getting influenza.”
The American Diabetes Association offers tips to manage diabetes if you are under the weather:
- Check, please! – Check blood glucose levels every 3-4 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 1 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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