Have diabetes? Learn to respond well if you get a cold or flu

Learn how to manage your diabetes when you become ill with the flu or common cold.

Learn how to manage your diabetes when you become ill with the flu or common cold. Unfortunately, it’s cold and flu season again. How does diabetes affect the way your body responds to a cold or flu? Being sill alone can raise your blood glucose; moreover, illness can prevent you from eating properly, which further affects blood glucose.

In addition, diabetes can make your immune system more vulnerable to severe cases of the flu. People with diabetes who come down with the flu may become very sick and may have to go to a hospital. You can help keep yourself from getting the flu by getting a flu shot every year. The best time to get one is between October and mid-November, before the flu season begins. Read about vaccinations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) publication, “Take Charge of Your Diabetes.”

If you do get sick, the CDC offers these tips on how you can take care of yourself:  

  • Be sure to continue taking your diabetes pills or insulin. Don’t stop taking them even if you can’t eat.
  • Test your blood glucose every four hours and keep track of the results.
  • Drink extra (calorie-free) liquids, and try to eat as you normally would. If you can’t, try to have soft foods and liquids containing the equivalent amount of carbohydrates that you usually consume.
  • Weigh yourself every day. Losing weight without trying is a sign of high blood glucose.
  • Check your temperature every morning and evening. A fever may be a sign of infection.

The CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advises diabetics to call their healthcare providers or go to an emergency room if any of the following occur:

  • You feel too sick to eat normally and are unable to keep down food for more than 6 hours
  • You’re having severe diarrhea
  • You lose 5 pounds or more
  • Your temperature is over 101 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Your blood glucose is lower than 60 mg/dL or remains over 300 mg/dL
  • You have moderate or large amounts of ketones in your urine
  • You’re having trouble breathing
  • You feel sleepy or can’t think clearly

Michigan State University Extension partners with local health organizations to offer Personal Action Toward Health (PATH) workshops. PATH provides the skills and tools to manage chronic health conditions, including diabetes. People who participate in PATH workshops are better equipped to face the daily challenges of living with one or more chronic conditions. PATH is a six-week series facilitated by two trained leaders who have chronic conditions themselves.

Through PATH you’ll learn to deal with the challenges of not feeling well, talk to healthcare providers and family members, overcome stress and relax, increase your energy, handle everyday activities more easily, stay independent and set goals. To find a PATH class near you in Michigan, visit the Michigan Department of Community Health website.

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