7 Tips for Managing Your Diabetes While Fighting a Cold or Flu

Having a cold or flu is no fun for anyone. The sore throat, runny nose, burning eyes, and fever-induced aches and pains? No, thank you. I feel I can safely say that most of us would like to just sleep right through them, and that’s probably exactly what you need most of the time. Lots and lots of sleep.

However, if you have diabetes, things are a little more complicated.

If you have diabetes, getting a cold or flu comes with a degree of risk. Why? Because there are a lot of factors that come with being sick that can affect your diabetes management routine. Many can even cause dangerous fluctuations in your blood glucose levels.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/nyul
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/nyul

Further, being sick puts added strain on your body, which makes it even more difficult for your body to properly use insulin. Conversely, having diabetes makes it harder for your body to fight off illness, meaning you may stay sick longer.

Clearly, that’s not ideal. However, there are things you can do to protect yourself. We want to offer you some tips and tricks for managing your diabetes while sick, so that you can focus on the task of getting better without unnecessary stress.

Take a look!

1. Pay attention to your medication

When you’re sick, it’s important that you continue to take your diabetes medication. In fact, it’s probable that your blood glucose levels are going to fluctuate more than they normally do. If you plan to take an over-the-counter medication it’s a good idea to consult your physician or pharmacist about its potential interactions with your diabetes medication.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/photocrew
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/photocrew

Remember: some medications (even cough drops!) have sugar in them. When you can, select a lower-sugar version of the medication. If you’re confused, ask the store’s pharmacist.

2. Check Your Numbers

In addition to increasing the frequency with which you test your blood glucose levels, it’s a good idea to also test your ketone levels when you’re sick. Because of your cold or flu symptoms, there’s a good chance you won’t recognize your typical symptoms of high or low blood sugar. Therefore, you should shoot for testing every 4 hours, unless your doctor has a different recommendation.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/skyfotostock
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/skyfotostock

For people with type 2 diabetes, it may only be necessary to check ketone levels if your blood glucose levels are higher than 300.


3. Be Prepared

It’s important that you, your physician, and your diabetes educator establish a management plan that incorporates being sick before you’re actually sick. Your plan should include a list of medications that you can take without interfering with your diabetes management, a meal plan, and a recommended schedule for testing.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/rogerphoto
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/rogerphoto

You may also want to establish a threshold for when it’s time to consult your doctor about your cold or flu.

4. Keep a sick journal

You know how we recommended increasing the frequency of tests? Well, it’s also a good idea to record those numbers somewhere. Having a view of what your fluctuations are looking like throughout the day can help you make adjustments where necessary.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/cherezoff
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/cherezoff

Additionally, keeping track of what you’re eating and drinking can help you stay on track with your meal plan and ensure you’re getting enough fluids.

5. Stay Hydrated

Hydration is essential for anyone trying to kick a cold, but if you have diabetes it’s even more important. It’s a good idea to aim for approximately 1 cup/hour, especially if you’re vomiting, have diarrhea, or are running a fever. Additional fluids will help replenish the fluid you’re losing, and may help rid your blood of excess glucose.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Africa Studio
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Africa Studio

If you’re noticing a spike in blood glucose levels, try to stick to sugar-free beverages like water and sugar-free ginger ale. If you’re noticing a dip in your numbers, keep juice and regular ginger ale on hand. However, it’s typically ideal to stick to non-caloric liquids.

6. Eat Well

This is when having a sick-day plan is especially important. You may find that your normal diet just isn’t going to cut it when you’re sick. If that’s the case, try to maintain your regular caloric intake, subbing in foods that are easy on the stomach, such as soup and crackers.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/FomaA
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/FomaA

The American Diabetes Association recommends 50 grams of carbohydrate every three to four hours.

7. Take preventative measures

While there isn’t a vaccine to prevent colds, you might consider discussing the flu vaccine with your physician. The best way to avoid a cold is to get plenty of sleep and practice healthy habits, like eating well and exercising.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Picture-Factory
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/Picture-Factory

Also, make sure to wash your hands throughout the day. If you find it’s not always easy to make it to a sink, carry a bottle of hand sanitizer with you.

“Next” for additional benefits the flu vaccine may hold for people with type 2 diabetes!

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L.D. and her eleven-year-old lab, Eleanor Rigby Fitzgerald, moved from Seattle to Grand Rapids earlier this year, and are currently enjoying exploring their new city! She likes books, music, movies, running, and being outdoors as much as possible.

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