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Dr. Bill's Commentaries

The Flu, Diabetes and You

Flu season is coming soon, and there are predictions that it might be worse than usual.

As the CDC points out, having the flu will cause changes in your blood sugar. In addition, illness can prevent you from eating properly, which further affects blood glucose levels. Sometimes, diabetes can make it more difficult to handle an infection like the flu. People with diabetes who come down with the flu may become very sick and may even have to go to a hospital. You can help keep yourself from getting the flu by getting a flu shot every year. Everyone with diabetes (whether type 1 OR type 2) - even pregnant women - should get a flu shot every year.

The CDC has updated its influenza website with this year's information at 2017-2018 Flu Season. The organization recommends that people get vaccinated "by the end of October, if possible."

Diabetes-specific information is available at Flu and People with Diabetes.

Remember the Sick Day Guidelines for People with Diabetes:

  • Be sure to continue taking your diabetes pills or insulin. Donít stop taking them, even if you canít eat. Your healthcare provider may even advise you to take more insulin during sickness.
  • Test your blood glucose every four hours, and keep track of the results.
  • Drink extra (calorie-free) liquids, and try to eat as you normally would. If you canít, try to have soft foods and liquids containing the equivalent amount of carbohydrates that you usually consume.
  • Weigh yourself every day. Losing weight without trying is a sign of high blood glucose.
  • Check your temperature every morning and evening. A fever may be a sign of infection.
Call your healthcare provider or go to an emergency room if any of the following happen to you:
  • You feel too sick to eat normally and are unable to keep down food for more than six hours
  • You're having severe diarrhea
  • You lose five pounds or more
  • Your temperature is over 101 F degrees
  • Your blood glucose is lower than 60 mg/dL or remains over 250 mg/dL on two checks
  • You have moderate or large amounts of ketones in your urine
  • You're having trouble breathing
  • You feel sleepy or can't think clearly

And, of course, everyone should take everyday steps to protect your health (and the health of others), especially during the flu season:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and throw the tissue away after using it;
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing;
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth (germs are spread that way); and
  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care. If you are sick with flu-like symptoms you should stay home for 24 hours after your fever is gone (without the use of fever-reducing medicine).
  • Everyday preventive actions can protect you from getting sick and, if you are sick, can help protect others from catching your illness.
  • Have enough medications and supplies to last for a week in case you have to stay at home.

As the CDC says, "The best time to get one [a flu shot] is now. The flu season often doesnít peak until February or even later. It takes several weeks for the shot to offer its best protection, so donít delay . . . get your flu shot now!"

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Dr. Bill Quick began writing at HealthCentral's diabetes website in November, 2006. These essays are reproduced at D-is-for-Diabetes with the permission of HealthCentral.

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This page was new at D-is-for-Diabetes September 29, 2017

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