Managing Your Diabetes When You Are Sick
Last updated: December 2022
We are officially in cold and flu season. For most people, this means stocking up on cold medicine, cough drops, tissues, and juice. But when you have diabetes, there are some steps to take to be sure you are prepared when a sick day hits. Being sick puts you at risk for high blood sugar, so blood sugar levels need to be closely monitored. If you have not already done so, be sure to speak with your physician about his or her guidelines for sick days so that you know what blood glucose levels, or symptoms, warrant a call to the office.
6 tips for managing type 2 diabetes when sick with the cold/flu
Here is a brief summary of the things you should be aware of when caring for your diabetes during a sick day.
1. Do not skip your medications
You may be tempted to lay on the couch all day and avoid putting anything into your body, but it is important that you continue to stay hydrated and on top of your diabetes medications. If your insulin or oral medication does not seem as effective in decreasing your blood sugar levels, as usual, call your doctor.
2. Make sure you keep eating and drinking
Even if your stomach does not feel great, skipping food and drink can be harmful to your blood sugar levels. Keep easy to digest foods on hand such as sugar–free jell-o, low sugar juice or sugar–free popsicles. Aim to drink at least one glass of fluid every hour to stay well hydrated.
3. Check blood sugar frequently
Because your body may be more likely to experience high blood sugars during an illness, it is important that you are checking your blood sugar levels frequently. Having extra strips, as well as your meter nearby will make it easier for you to check often. If you do see some alarming numbers, make sure to give your doctor a call.
4. Other medications
You may be tempted to take cough drops and other medications that help with cold symptoms, but it is important that you speak with your doctor first. Some medications may not be safe when you have diabetes.
5. Check for ketones
Ketones are produced when the body burns fat instead of glucose for energy. If your blood or urine shows signs of ketones, call your doctor immediately as this can be a sign of ketoacidosis. This is considered a medical emergency as long-term high blood sugar levels can damage bodily systems.
6. Discuss these steps with loved ones or caretakers
It would be a good idea to tell your family members or friends what signs to watch for when you are having a sick day. That way, they know what to do in case of an emergency.
What should you keep on hand when sick with the cold or flu?
Here is a list of items to keep on hand so that you are prepared for a sick day.
- Sugar-free jell-o
- Low sugar fruit juice
- Sugar-free popsicles
- Broth soups
- Sugar-free pudding
- Extra glucose test strips
- Ketone test strips
- Notebook and pencil to keep track of glucose levels
- Physician’s phone number
Do you find it difficult to "eat right" and stick to a nutrition plan?