Coronavirus and Diabetes

When you’re sick, your body releases hormones that can raise blood sugar — which is already a concern when you have type 2 diabetes. In general, people with diabetes are more likely to experience severe symptoms and complications when infected with a virus. The problem people with diabetes face is primarily a problem of worse outcomes, not greater chance of contracting the virus.  So, when you’re sick, you need to be extra mindful to stay on top of your diabetes self-care. That’s because a viral infections like the cold, sinus infection, the flu or Coronavirus can put your body under stress, causing it to release hormones that help fight the illness — but these hormones can also affect your blood sugar levels.

Because people who already have diabetes-related health problems are likely to have worse outcomes if they contract COVID-19 than people with diabetes who are otherwise healthy, whichever type of diabetes they have here are precautions to take. 

COVID-19 has spread to a lot of communities, take extra measures to put distance between yourself and other people to further reduce your risk of being exposed to this new virus. Stay home as much as possible.

Follow your sick day plan for cold and flu seasons, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), this plan should outline the general steps you need to take when sick, such as:

  1. How often you’ll need to test your blood sugar
  2. What to do if your blood sugar gets high
  3. When to test your ketones
  4. What medications to take
  5. What and how to eat
  6. When to call your doctor

Here are some healthful tips to help keep your diabetes under control if you do get sick.

  • Drink plenty of fluids.  People with diabetes should be even more vigilant about drinking fluids because high blood sugar levels lead to more urination, adding to your risk for dehydration. Choose water or sugar-free sports drinks to replace electrolytes and fluids.
  • Avoid skipping or doubling up on medication doses. You shouldn’t never try to adjust your diabetes medication or insulin without your doctor’s advice. If it hasn’t already been outlined in your sick day plan, call your medical team to find out what to do if your blood sugar is unusually high or low.
  • Check your blood sugar level regularly. When you’re sick, you’ll need to check your blood sugar more often. If blood sugar spikes over 300, the ADA recommends also checking ketones, which you can do with a urine test strip.
  • Get diabetes-friendly cold medications. The ADA recommends asking a pharmacist to help you when you’re looking for over-the-counter medicines, if your doctor hasn’t already recommended the best ones for you. Try to find sugar-free cough syrup and be aware that decongestants can affect both blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
  • Pay attention and don’t ignore symptoms of potential diabetes emergencies. Your sick day plan should outline when to call your doctor, but some symptoms could signal a possible diabetes emergency. The ADA says these include:
  • Blood sugar levels that keep rising or are over 240
  • Moderate to large amounts of ketones in your urine
  • Frequent urination
  • Dry mouth or thirst
  • Vomiting for more than six hours
  • Abdominal pain
  • Confusion
  • Loss of consciousness

Even if you’re not experiencing these symptoms, call your doctor any time you aren’t sure about your medications or how to care for yourself.

  • Try to eat small meals often. Stock up on foods that are easy for a sick stomach, such as soup, crackers, applesauce, and gelatin. The ADA recommends 50 grams of carbohydrates every three to four hours, and you should generally try to get your usual daily calorie intake. If you can’t eat any solids, try frozen fruit pops, broth, pudding, or juice.
  • Keep a written record. Write down your blood sugar test results, the times you take medications, when you eat and what you eat, and any new symptoms you experience, such as vomiting, diarrhea, fever, or abdominal pain. The ADA also recommends tracking your weight if you’re sick for several days.
  • Wear a medical ID. Most sick days will pass without trouble, but if you ever lose consciousness or need to go to the emergency room, a medical ID will give vital information to medical professionals.
  • Avoid isolating yourself. Although Coronavirus recommendation is to self-quarantine, don’t do it alone.