Diabetes Care When You Are Sick
Whether you have a head cold or the flu, being sick can put all of your activities on hold. You are forced to stop and take care of yourself. But, if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, this demands extra attention.
Why is that? When you are sick, you are more likely to have a high blood sugar (glucose) level also known as hyperglycemia. This happens because your body creates more hormones to fight infection, and these hormones can counteract the effects of insulin. If insulin cannot do its job, then glucose builds up in the blood.
Being sick puts you at risk for hyperglycemia so you should consider checking your blood glucose more often. You may need to test several times a day, even if your normal routine is to test just once a day.
What is considered high? This depends on your target range. According to the American Diabetes Association, you should aim for tight control, keeping glucose levels as close to normal as possible (70-130 milligrams per deciliter [mg/dl] before a meal, less than 180 mg/dl after a meal). But not everyone is able to achieve this. Ask your doctor what levels are right for you and when you should call for additional medical advice.
You also need to know how to adjust your medication to treat high glucose levels. Ask about the amount of insulin you should give yourself to bring the levels down. If you take oral diabetes medication, find out how to adjust the dose. If you do not already have this information, work with your doctor to create a 'sick day plan' so that you will be prepared.
In addition to testing your blood glucose levels, be alert for the symptoms of hyperglycemia such as having to urinate frequently, being very thirsty, and having blurry vision.
Last reviewedNovember 2012by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.