Taking Care of Your Diabetes When You Are Sick
Why is that? When you are sick, you are more likely to have a high blood sugar (glucose) level, this is called 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.
Test Your Blood Sugar Often
Since being sick puts you at risk for hyperglycemia, check 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 her, such as when you get two high tests in a row.
You also need to know how to treat high glucose levels—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 '
In addition to testing your blood glucose levels, be alert for the symptoms of hyperglycemia: having to urinate frequently, being very thirsty, and having blurry vision.
Test for Ketoacidosis
If you have diabetes and high glucose levels, you are at risk for a dangerous condition called ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis happens because the body does not have enough insulin, prompting the liver to make chemicals (ketones) that can accumulate and cause you to become seriously ill. Symptoms usually begin with very dry mouth and frequent urination. Later, you may experience fatigue, dry or flushed skin, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, difficulty breathing, fruity odor on breath, and confusion. If you have any of these symptoms, CALL 911.
Ketone levels can be checked with urine tests that are sold at drug stores. Ask your doctor whether you should check for ketones while you are sick and when you should test (eg, blood glucose level over 240 mg/dl). Call the doctor if the results show moderate amounts of ketones after two tests.
Stick to Your Routine
When you are feeling nauseous or vomiting, the last thing you want to do is eat. But when you have diabetes, it becomes extremely important to stick to your regular meal plan. Your body needs the amount of carbohydrates that it’s accustomed to.
So how do you do this? Ask your doctor or dietician how to make
so you get the nutrients that you need. For example, try eating broth-based soups, saltine crackers, and frozen fruit bars. If you have had vomiting or
Remember to continue taking your insulin even if you are not eating your regular diet. However, your dose of insulin may need to be adjusted. Call your doctor if you have severe vomiting or diarrhea or your eating pattern has changed a lot.
Take Your Temp and Carefully Choose Cold Medicines
Have a thermometer and cold medicine in your medicine cabinet. If your temperature is over 101°F (38°C), call the doctor. Read the labels carefully on the cold medicines because some contain ingredients, like
Monitor Your Cold
Keep close tabs on your cold. If a couple of days have passed and you donot feel better, call the doctor. Provide details about your illness—when you got sick, what your symptoms are, what yo have been eating and drinking, what your glucose and ketone levels are, and any other important facts. If you have fatigue, stomach or chest pain, or breathing difficulty, call the doctor right away.
Get Your Shots
Avoid the flu by getting the
If you have not already made a 'sick day plan' with your doctor, schedule an appointment to discuss:
- What blood glucose levels are considered high for you and when you should call the doctor
- How to adjust your medication to bring the blood glucose level back into the normal range
- How often you should test for ketones and when you should call the doctor
- What food exchanges you can make if you are not feeling well enough to eat your regular diet
- Which cold medications are safe for you
- Whether you have had your flu and pneumonia shots
Being prepared can go a long way to help you to cope with your illness and to avoid problems, like hyperglycemia.
American Diabetes Association
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse
Canadian Diabetes Association
Public Health Agency of Canada
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Take care of your diabetes. Center for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/DIABETES/pubs/tcyd/ktrack.htm. Updated December 2005. Accessed December 12, 2008.
Taking care of your diabetes at special times. National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse website. Available at: http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/type1and2/specialtimes.htm. Accessed December 12, 2008.
When your blood glucose is too high or too low. National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse website. Available at: http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/type1and2/lowglucose.htm. Accessed December 12, 2008.
Wood D. Type 1 diabetes. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/thisTopic.php?marketID=15topicID=81. Updated November 2008. Accessed December 1, 2008.
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Last reviewed October 2010 by
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.
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