Diabetes Health: What to Do if You Believe You Have the Flu

May 03,2019 |

Most people understand that diabetes is a chronic health condition that needs regular maintenance. What they don’t realize is that diabetic people experience sickness differently—what’s considered mild for a non-diabetic person can be extremely dangerous for someone with diabetes. One thing that diabetics need to monitor, treat, and if possible, prevent, is getting the flu. People with diabetes are more at risk for serious health complications from the flu than people without diabetes. Because of this, it’s important to understand what to do if you think you have the flu symptoms. In this article, we’ll go over everything you should know about the flu if you have type 1, type 2, or gestational diabetes.

To better understand the link between diabetes and the flu, we first need to understand how diabetes affects then body. People who have type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, or even gestational diabetes are at risk for serious flu complications that can be fatal if not properly treated.3 The flu can also make your diabetes worse, which makes it difficult to manage and treat and will likely lead to a change in medication frequency. People with diabetes often find themselves with extremely low or high blood glucose levels and some report going into diabetic ketoacidosis or hyperglycemia. Getting the flu with diabetes also increases your risk of pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections, ear infections, and more.3 If you feel sick, call your doctor to ensure that you are staying safe and doing all you can to treat your illness effectively.

Diabetes and the Flu

If you’ve been managing your diabetes for a long time, you understand how important it is to stay healthy and keep your blood sugar within range. To help you maintain optimal health and avoid any complications, here are a few things to keep in mind if you think you have the flu.

Know the Symptoms

The most important thing is to make sure that you know all of the possible signs and symptoms of the flu. As a diabetic, catching illnesses early on will allow you to care for yourself properly and reduce the risk of any complications. Some of the main symptoms of the flu include a cough, sore through, runny nose, body aches, headaches, chills, and fatigue.1 You may show one or more of the symptoms at any given time, so don’t write it off if you feel a little under the weather. Monitor your body and your symptoms and if you notice things getting worse, contact your doctor. In some cases of the flu, people experience nausea and vomiting as well.1 Other symptoms of severe cases of the flu include seizures, a fever higher than 104 degrees Fahrenheit, chest pain, severe weakness, or worsening of chronic medical conditions.3 Make sure you differentiate any signs of the flu or cold vs. allergies or COVID-19 so that you can ensure you’re getting the proper care.

Monitor Fluid and Food Intake

If you’re experiencing any one of the symptoms of the flu, start to monitor your food and fluid intake. While you likely won’t feel hungry or thirsty, eating and drinking is important to help keep you hydrated and maintain stable blood sugar levels. Try to at least eat a few easily digestible carbohydrates and drink enough water. Eat what you usually eat for your meal plans and consume at least 15 grams of carbohydrates every hour or so to keep your blood sugar levels stabilized.4 If you feel too sick to eat or drink contact your doctor immediately. You will likely need to figure out a way to adjust your diabetes medications so that your body can regulate fluctuating blood sugar levels while you’re sick. If you don’t, you risk the chance of going into diabetic shock or experiencing other serious complications.

Staying hydrated is also important to help your immune system work efficiently and avoid any complications. Avoid drinking things that are laden with excess sugar, especially if you don’t normally drink them in your diabetic management routine. Instead, opt for plain water, tea, or sugar-free ginger ale to help sooth upset stomachs. Try to drink at least 1 cup of liquids every hour.4

Check Your Blood Sugar

In addition to monitoring your fluid and food intake, you need to check your blood sugar frequently—much more than usual. While this might seem difficult to do while you’re sick, you need to be able to tell what are symptoms of the flu and what are symptoms of low blood glucose or high blood glucose.2 The flu and many other viral infections can lead to increased risk of diabetic ketoacidosis or hyperglycemia, both of which can be dangerous and even fatal if not addressed. If you feel sick, even if you’re not sick with the flu, check your blood sugar every 3 to 4 hours at the very minimum.4 If you notice any severe changes, call your doctor to discuss adjusting your insulin levels. Your doctor will likely recommend checking the ketones in your urine to monitor for diabetic ketoacidosis. If you’re monitoring ketones and notice high ketone levels, call your doctor immediately to avoid serious complications.

Monitor Your Weight

Another thing you should add to your diabetic management plan if you have the flu is your weight management. Since flu symptoms can mask the signs of high blood glucose, keeping track of your weight will give you some added input. If you notice a significant decrease in your weight over a few days, especially if you’re still able to eat and drink regularly, it could be a sign that you’ve been in an elongated state of high blood sugar and you need to adjust your medications. Call your doctor for recommendations on how to adjust your medications to stay safe.

Check Labels Thoroughly

If you need to take any over-the-counter medications, always talk to your doctor or the pharmacist and read the labels thoroughly before taking them. Certain OTC medications contain high levels of sugar that can cause problems with your blood sugar levels.1 If you don’t recognize the ingredients on the label, ask the pharmacist for help and make sure you communicate that you’re diabetic.

Get Vaccinated

The best way to protect yourself from the flu is to get vaccinated. Flu vaccinations are recommended for everyone but are even more beneficial to those who are already managing type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, or any other form of diabetes (gestational, NDA, MODY). For the best protection, talk to your doctor about getting the flu vaccination yearly to protect yourself and reduce the likelihood that you’ll get sick.

Call Your Doctor

Getting the flu as a diabetic can be scary and quite dangerous. While we recommend calling your doctor if you experience any of the above problems, it’s especially important to call them if you notice any signs of infection or progressing illness. If you feel too sick to eat, can’t keep food down, or are having severe diarrhea, call your doctor.5 If you lose over 5 pounds without trying, have extremely low or high blood sugar, and notice moderate to large amounts of ketones in your urine, call your doctor.5 Even if you don’t feel like your symptoms are severe, if you’re not feeling yourself or think that something’s wrong, don’t hesitate to call for help. It’s always better to be safe, especially when it comes to diabetes and the flu.

Conclusion

Having diabetes means that you need to take special precautions, especially when you get sick. Regardless of if you have type 1, type 2, gestational, or monogenic diabetes, taking care of yourself when you have the flu is one of the most important things you need to do. If you feel too weak, talk to your family or friends about getting some help. If you need any blood glucose meters or continuous glucose monitoring devices, Byram Healthcare has you covered. We’re proud to provide you with the latest technology in diabetes management, including continuous glucose monitoring. We’ll work with your insurance provider and doctor to ensure you’re supported from start to finish, maximizing your coverage while minimizing out-of-pocket expenses. For more information and added support on diabetes management, sign up for Byram Healthcare’s Caring Touch At Home Program. We focus on providing exceptional customer service and top-of-the-line brand name products while lowering your overhead costs. The Caring Touch At Home Program combines convenience, affordability, and choice to deliver extensive service and support to everyone living with diabetes.

For added support, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Byram’s Diabetes Center of Excellence—a one source, total solution for diabetes care. Our Center of Excellence combines high quality products with clinical and educational research to help you better manage your condition, support all of your needs, and live a long, healthy life.

Sources:

1 https://www.diabeteshealth.com/diabetes-health-type-1-2-what-to-do-if-you-think-you-have-the-flu-symptoms/

2 https://health.usnews.com/health-news/family-health/diabetes/articles/2009/10/02/diabetes-and-the-flu-6-things-you-should-know

3 https://www.cdc.gov/flu/highrisk/diabetes.htm

4 https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/diabetes-and-flu

5 https://www.hhs.gov/answers/prevention-and-wellness/what-should-a-diabetic-do-if-they-have-the-flu/index.html

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