Do You Have a Sick-Day Plan?
Winter colds and the flu can wreak havoc on your blood sugar.
Don’t let the common cold mess with your diabetes management
The cold-and-flu season is upon us and, let’s face it, it’s no fun for anyone. But these winter months can be particularly perilous for people with diabetes.
“When you have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, your immune system is less able to fight infections,” explains David Lam, M.D., associate director of the Mount Sinai Diabetes Center in New York City. As a result, you’re more likely to get sick—and to suffer complications from what otherwise might be a gardenvariety case of the sniffles.
But there are other risks, as well: “When you’re sick, your body releases more stress hormones, which in turn can raise blood sugar,” adds Lam. That’s why it’s so important to have a sick plan in place, so that you’re better able to manage your blood sugar, stay aware of symptoms, and seek medical attention if necessary.
Here’s what you need to know.
GET A FLU SHOT
Getting the influenza vaccine is particularly important for people with diabetes. “If a person with diabetes gets the flu, they are more likely to end up in the hospital with a complication, such as pneumonia, than someone who doesn’t have the condition,” explains Lam. The flu shot reduces your chances of contracting the disease by anywhere from 40 to 60 percent. Most physicians recommend getting the shot in October, to allow your body at least a couple weeks to develop a protective response to the influenza virus; however, a later vaccination date is still not too late—flu season usually lasts through March. You should also make sure that you get the pneumococcal vaccine, which is recommended for all adults with diabetes. You need two doses, spaced a year apart, for maximum protection.
PRACTICE GOOD PREVENTION
Regular handwashing can prevent up to 20 percent of all colds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. You should also make time for sleep— folks who clock less than six hours a night are over four times as likely to catch a cold, compared to those who get more than seven hours, according to a 2015 study published in the medical journal Sleep.
MAKE A SICK-DAY KIT
It’s important to have supplies on hand. A sickday kit should include the following:
Glucose tablets, in case you feel so sick you can’t eat
Thermometer, to check your temperature Acetaminophen to take for fever
Glucose meter, test strips, lancets, and a lancing device to check your blood sugar levels Ketosis test strips (Ketostix), to check your urine for ketones if you have type 1 diabetes Glucagon kit for emergency low blood sugar if you have type 1 diabetes
Extra syringes and insulin, if you take insulin