Diabetes and a Cold

Cold and Flu season is in high swing and no one likes to be sick. But dealing with a cold and trying to manage your diabetes adds an extra level of worry. Get back to feeling your best faster by knowing the tools you need.

Here’s what’s actually happening when you’re sick, how that affects your diabetes, and how you can tackle it like a pro.

What’s Happening?

When you’re sick, it can add stress to your body. Stress is a hormone that can affect your diabetes because it can raise your glucose levels. This can make insulin balance and eating more challenging.

Be wary of this and make sure you have extra test strips available and test a little more often than usual if you’re feeling under the weather. Adjust your diet and insulin intake accordingly. You may also need to test your urine ketones as your insulin and glucose levels dip out of your target range, it can increase the risk of Ketoacidosis.

If you have the flu, you may experience some vomiting. This can seriously affect your blood glucose levels for a number of reasons. One, you’re not digesting the food you’re eating. And two, you’re becoming dehydrated.

How do you Tackle the Cold and Flu?

It’s easy to stay on top of your diabetes management with the cold or flu when you’re prepared. Start with having extra test strips, insulin, and other diabetic medications you may need. If you’re living with type 2 diabetes, you may need insulin as well just in case. Always take your medications, even if you’re vomiting or feel nauseous. This is critical for avoiding dangerous complications like Ketoacidosis.

Remember to eat as normal. Drink extra water to avoid dehydration, and keep a good stock of tummy-friendly sick day foods like juices, soups, crackers, and gelatin. These are easy on the stomach, but full of carbohydrates to keep your glucose in check.

Be careful of normal cold and flu medicines, as they may affect your blood glucose levels. Many over-the-counter cough syrups have sugar in them, and aspirin can lower your glucose. Read the label, and if you’re not sure, call your doctor for more information.

What if That Doesn’t Work?

You’ve taken your medications, eaten regularly, and stayed hydrated. But, somehow your blood glucose levels are above 240 before a meal and they’re staying there. You need to call your doctor and describe the symptoms you’re experiencing to decide what is the next step to get you feeling better. Call your doctor immediately if you’re experiencing any of the following:

  • Sustained fever for several days
  • Chest pain, heavy breathing, fruity breath, or other signs of Ketoacidosis
  • Fasting blood glucose levels of 240 or more for 24 hours
  • Vomiting, or nausea that doesn’t go away

Despite us planning for the worst, there are things we just don’t know for sure. Your doctor will be able to assist you if you’ve prepared the best of your ability, but it just doesn’t seem to be helping.

If you have diabetes and you get hit with a cold or flu this holiday season, be sure to have all the extra supplies you need, diabetes-friendly cold medicines, and your doctor’s number on speed dial should you condition not improve. Prevention of the cold and flu is your first defense, so make sure to wash your hands and get the flu shot to avoid any complications.

As always share with us the ways you handle holiday cold and flu when you’re living with diabetes.