Do You Have a Sick-Day Plan?

Win­ter colds and the flu can wreak havoc on your blood sugar.

Diabetic Living (USA) - - Contents - WRIT­ING HALLIE LEVINE

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.


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.


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.


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


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