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Diabetes and the Flu: 6 Things You Should Know

Julie Harris, RDN |

Individuals with diabetes (type 1, type 2 or gestational) who get seasonal flu or H1N1 face additional challenges in keeping blood sugar under control. Being sick with the flu changes your appetite, which affects blood sugar. Feeling tired from the flu can mask symptoms of low and high blood glucose. Even more, since diabetes decreases your immune system, you are more susceptible to severe cases of the flu and flu complications. Keep reading for a guide on getting through the flu with diabetes.

How Does the Flu Make You Sick?

Sick Day Guidelines for Diabetes

When you get sick and have diabetes, one goal is to help keep your blood sugar in target range. Follow these six steps to help you get through the sickness.

Check the label of over-the-counter medication for added sugars.

Typically, over the counter medication is safe for those with diabetes. Yet, it’s important to be aware that certain ingredients can affect blood sugar. Oral decongestants and cough syrups can raise your blood sugar because of added sugars or other ingredients. Ask the pharmacist or your doctor to help you decode the ingredients lists.

Check your blood glucose every four hours.

Keep track of your results and share them with your care team. Having this data can help you and your care team understand how your body responds to illness.

Drink plenty of (non-calorie) fluids to prevent dehydration.

Diabetes and the flu can both affect your thirst sensations. It might make sense to track your intake to make sure you’re getting enough. Broths, soups, and flavored water can help keep you hydrated.

Try to eat your normal meals and snacks.

If your stomach is upset, try to eat carbohydrates, as those tend to be easier to digest. When you’re not able to keep food down, talk to your doctor about adjusting your medication. If you need to raise your blood glucose, try drinks with 10–15 grams of carbohydrate per serving, such as the following:

  • 3-ounce frozen fruit juice bar
  • 1/2 cup frozen yogurt
  • 1 slice of toast
  • 1 cup of soup
  • 6 saltine crackers
  • 5 vanilla wafers
  • 1/4 cup regular pudding

Call your doctor if you’ve been unable to keep food down for more than six hours.

The CDC also recommends that you call your doctor if you:

  • if you’re not able to breath
  • have severe diarrhea
  • lose 5 pounds or more
  • have a temperature over 101 degrees
  • record a blood glucose level lower than 60 mg/dL or over 300 mg/dL
  • show signs of confusion or excessive sleepiness

Weigh yourself daily.

This is a situation where daily weights are helpful. If you see you’re losing weight without trying, that could be a sign of a few things, including dehydration or high blood sugar.

Diabetes and the Flu

Having the flu can make anyone want to crawl into bed and stay there until it’s over. Yet, when you have diabetes, it’s most important to stay vigilant about your diabetes care and to take good care of yourself to help your body heal.

The information we provide at welldoc.com and welldoc.com/blog is not medical advice, nor is it intended to replace a consultation with a medical professional. Please inform your physician of any changes you make to your diet or lifestyle and discuss these changes with them. If you have questions or concerns about any medical conditions you may have, please contact your physician.

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