Living with diabetes has its challenges and the COVID-19 pandemic can cause worry and stress. It’s important to note that being diabetic does not increase your risk of contracting coronavirus. Diabetics do, however, have a harder time fighting off infections like the viral infection caused by COVID-19 if your diabetes is not well-managed.
Minimize your risk of contracting coronavirus by following the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines:
Keeping your blood sugar levels in range is important, as high blood sugar suppresses your immune system. Check your blood sugar levels frequently to avoid any substantial drops or peaks. It is also good to have plenty of foods on hand to help you safely and efficiently manage your carbohydrate intake.
Be sure to stock up on supplies for managing your diabetes, including:
Having extra medications that you take regularly on hand also is important. If a State of Emergency is declared where you live, you may be able to refill prescriptions early. It’s better to be prepared than to be caught without critical diabetes supplies and medications if you are quarantined or catch COVID-19.
As someone with diabetes, it is important that you have a plan to follow if symptoms of coronavirus develop. Pack a “to-go bag” of diabetic medical supplies and medicine in case you need to go to the hospital and have a list of phone numbers for the doctors involved in your medical care.
It is common for diabetics to develop a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis with viral infections. This condition can make it challenging for diabetics to regulate fluid consumption and electrolyte levels and can lead to sepsis. If you feel as though you are getting sick, regularly check for symptoms of elevated ketones. Elevated ketones can be a sign of high blood sugar. It may be hard to swallow fluids and foods, so keep a variety of foods and beverages like sodas stocked.
Blood sugar levels also may vary if you decrease your carbohydrate or fluid intake when you feel sick. Monitor your blood sugar levels more frequently than usual during an illness to manage fluctuating blood sugar levels. Be aware that over the counter (OTC) medications can have an effect on your blood sugar. Many OTC cough syrups contain sugar, and while there are syrups that do not contain sugar, these medications can cause your blood sugar levels to rise.
Other medications can be used to treat the symptoms of COVID-19, but should be used with caution if you are diabetic.
Consult your doctor before taking any medication.
This information has been reviewed and approved by Elizabeth Kern, MD (March 2020)
Learn more about COVID-19 and how it affects specific health conditions in these printable patient education materials.
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