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    Beating the Cold and Flu Blues: Sick Day Management for People with Diabetes

    Beating the Cold and Flu Blues: Sick Day Management for People with Diabetes


    Well, guess what – your mother was right! Getting a yearly flu shot is one of the best ways to stay well. According to the CDC, vaccinations are the most effective way to avoid getting the flu. With few exceptions, everyone 6 months of age and older can and should get one.


    Unfortunately, we can’t always avoid getting sick. For people with diabetes, managing blood sugar levels during an illness can be challenging. Why? There are several reasons:

    • When you’re sick, your body responds by releasing stress hormones. These hormones cause blood glucose levels to rise.
    • Loss of appetite makes it difficult to eat regularly, or eat enough food.
    • Not drinking enough fluids, or losing fluids through vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration.


    Here are a few helpful suggestions for managing illness at home:

    • If you are not tolerating a regular diet, try some 15 gram carbohydrate sick day snacks. Examples are: ½ cup of regular Sprite, ½ cup of regular Jello, or ½ cup of fruit juice.
    • Monitor blood sugar levels at least every 3-4 hours. You may have to monitor more often if you take insulin.
    • Unless you are told otherwise, take your diabetes medication as prescribed. Check with your health care provider for specific instructions if changing medications or dosages.
    • Non-diabetes medications like cold remedies and antibiotics can affect blood sugar levels. Check with your provider or pharmacist before taking them.


    Sometimes illness cannot be managed at home. If you have diabetes, you should call your health care provider or seek assistance at an urgent care or emergency center if:

    • You’ve been vomiting or having diarrhea for more than 6 hours.
    • You’ve had a fever higher than 101.5 F or a fasting glucose of 240 or greater for more than 24 hours.
    • You have moderate to large ketones in your urine, or symptoms of dehydration.


    Take good care of yourself, and have an enjoyable winter season!