Cold and flu season is in full swing and as if coughing, sneezing, and chills aren’t enough to deal with, then managing your diabetes and blood glucose levels can certainly pose a challenge. It is important to prepare for how to manage a sick day, since blood glucose levels can run higher even when you aren’t eating. In addition to cold and flu, “sick day guidelines” can be followed for other conditions such as: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, infection, illness, surgery or dental work. Below are 10 tips to help survive sick days:
1. Have a sick day plan in place
This may include: how often to check blood sugars, when to call the office, and when to take medications. Keep necessary contact information such as your doctor or endocrinologist’s office numbers on hand to easily refer to. Also, make sure you know who to contact or the location of the nearest hospital in case of an emergency.
2. Know when to call your health care provider
Some providers recommend specific guidelines or when to call such as: if blood glucose is >250. Any questions- reach out!
3. Stay hydrated!
Aim for at least 8 ounces of water, clear broth, or fluids every hour. Keep in mind many of the beverages we consume when we are sick contain high amounts of carbohydrates such as: ginger ale, Gatorade, and juice. Opt for low carb options such as water, diet ginger ale, or tea (without honey or sugar added). Tip: Try adding ginger or lemon to your tea for some extra flavor without carbohydrates!
4. Be careful with over-the-counter medications
Some cough syrups, cough drops, and other cold medicines may contain added sugar, which can contribute to elevated blood glucose. Look for ones that are sugar-free or DM. If prescribed steroids, this can also lead to hyperglycemia, and you may need to discuss with your provider if temporary medication adjustments are necessary when using steroids.
5. Continue to take your diabetes medications as prescribed
Unless you are advised not to, continue to take your medications the same way you normally would.
6. Increase blood glucose checks
The last thing we want to be doing on top of dealing with a sickness is checking and monitoring blood glucose more frequently than usual. But this is essential especially when you are sick, since blood glucose levels tend to run higher. Some providers may suggest checking every 2-4 hours. It is important to keep a log and document what time you checked and what the exact levels were to be able to provide your doctor with that information.
7. Watch carbohydrate intake
Very often the foods we turn to when sick may consist of high amounts of carbohydrates, such as crackers, toast, soup, etc. Still try to keep your carb content consistent throughout the day.
8. REST, REST and REST
Being sick can take a lot out of you! Especially when blood glucose levels are higher, it can really take a toll on your energy level. Be sure to provide yourself the necessary time to rest and recover before returning to work.
9. Wash hands frequently, and use sanitizer to prevent spreading of germs
Clean and disinfect house and bedding.
10. Check urine for ketones.
Ask your provider if this is necessary.
Every individual and every illness is unique. Remember these tips are general guidelines, and it is important for you to talk to your healthcare team and/or diabetes educator for more specific instructions.