Whether your head feels like it's stuffed with cotton because you have a cold or you're spending a lot of time on the toilet because of a stomach bug, being sick is no fun for anyone.
For people with diabetes, being sick can also affect blood sugar levels. The good news is that taking a few extra precautions can help you keep your blood sugar levels under control.
When you get sick — whether it's a minor illness like a sore throat or cold or a bigger problem like dehydration or surgery — the body perceives the illness as stress. To relieve the stress, the body fights the illness. This process requires more energy than the body normally uses.
On one hand, this is good because it helps supply the extra fuel the body needs. On the other hand, in a person with diabetes, this can lead to high blood sugar levels. Some illnesses cause the opposite problem, though. If you don't feel like eating or have nausea or vomiting, and you're taking the same amount of insulin you normally do, you can develop blood sugar levels that are too low.
Blood sugar levels can be very unpredictable when you're sick. Because you can't be sure how the illness will affect your blood sugar levels, it's important to check blood sugar levels often on sick days and adjust your insulin doses as needed.
Your diabetes management plan will help you know what to do when you're sick. The plan might tell you:
In addition, people with diabetes should get the pneumococcal vaccine, which protects against some serious infections. You should also get a flu shot every year. These vaccines may help you keep your diabetes under better control and cut down on the number of sick days you have.
Your doctor will give you specific advice when you're sick. But here are some general guidelines:
Your diabetes management plan will explain when you may need medical help. It will tell you what to do and whom to call. Here are some general reasons for calling the doctor:
Any time you have questions or concerns, ask your doctor for advice.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013
|American Diabetes Association (ADA) The ADA website includes news, information, tips, and recipes for people with diabetes.|
|Joslin Diabetes Center The website of this Boston-based center has information about how to monitor blood sugar and manage diabetes.|
|Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF) JDRF's mission is to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research.|
|National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) NDEP is a partnership of the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and more than 200 public and private organizations. Its mission is to improve the treatment and outcomes for people with diabetes, to promote early diagnosis, and to prevent the onset of diabetes.|
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|Diabetes Center Our Diabetes Center provides information and advice for teens about treating and living with diabetes.|
|Managing Your Medical Care Visit our center on managing your medical care for advice on how to get involved in taking charge of your health and choosing the right health care providers.|
|School and Diabetes You probably spend more than a third of your waking hours at school. Chances are you'll need to check your blood sugar levels or give yourself an insulin injection during that time. So what do you do?|
|Type 1 Diabetes: How Is It Treated? People with type 1 diabetes need to follow a treatment plan to manage their diabetes and stay healthy and active.|
|Keeping Track of Your Blood Sugar To keep your diabetes under control, stay healthy, and prevent future problems, you need to keep blood sugar levels in a healthy range. To do that, check and track those levels regularly.|
|Long-Term Complications of Diabetes Thinking about your diabetes a little bit now - and taking some steps to prevent problems - may make things easier down the road.|
|Diabetes: When to Call the Doctor Taking care of your diabetes includes knowing when to call a doctor and get medical help.|
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