|SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center|
Handling Diabetes When You're Sick
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.
How Illness Affects Blood Sugar Levels
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.
Planning for Sick Days
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.
What to Do When You're Sick
Your doctor will give you specific advice when you're sick. But here are some general guidelines:
When to Call Your Doctor
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