Each year, an average of 200,000 Americans are hospitalized because of flu complications, but people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are three times more likely to face complications that may be fatal, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The best step is prevention, and anyone with diabetes should seriously consider getting a flu shot in the fall. But for those who do get sick, it’s important that people with diabetes be prepared. The following sick-day plan is designed to help diabetic patients suffering from a cough, a cold or the flu.
Get plenty of sleep, and even when awake, do resting activities (reading, watching TV, online shopping) as long as you don’t find it stressful.
“Feed a cold, starve a fever” is not advice you should follow. Eat plenty of healthy items that are also easy to digest, like soups, sugar-free Jell-O and fruit juice mixed with water and yogurt. Dehydration will cause your blood sugar to drop, so drink one cup of sugar-free, caffeine-free liquid per hour.
Medicine cabinets must go beyond a glucose meter and thermometer. You should also have ketone-testing supplies and appropriate medications for cold and flu symptoms. “When suffering from a cough, cold or flu, it’s important for people with diabetes to treat their symptoms with medicine that doesn’t have a negative effect on their diabetes,” says Debra Spector, registered dietitian and certified nutritionist.
“Most people don’t realize that cough syrups can contain up to 50 percent sugar, and cold and flu medicines may contain alcohol, both of which can raise one’s glucose, possibly to dangerous levels. Diabetic Tussin has been trusted by the medical community for years because it is sugar and alcohol-free, so it’s 100 percent safe for diabetics. It’s even recommended for those on a sodium or gluten-free diet,” says Spector.
Take your insulin and diabetes medicine on schedule, even if you experience nausea or haven’t eaten. Check your blood glucose at least four times a day.
If your symptoms worsen, contact your doctor.