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Diabetes and COVID-19: What to do if you get sick

Friday, September 18, 2020

Severe illness from COVID-19 is more likely in people who have certain underlying medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes.

The danger goes both ways: Being sick may also make it harder for people with diabetes to control their blood sugar. That means, if you have diabetes, it's a good idea to know what to do in case you get sick.

Plan ahead, says Jennifer Newton, a dietitian and diabetes educator at Sky Lakes Wellness Center. “Make sure you always have plenty of medications, including insulin—and groceries—for at least the week ahead.”

She suggests you should be stocked up on supplies of simple carbohydrates such as regular soft drinks, honey, jam, gelatin dessert, hard candies or frozen pops. These can help keep your blood sugar up in case you feel too sick to eat. But if your blood sugar is running high, which is more likely to happen when you are sick, stick to sugar-free or lower carbohydrate options.

You should also keep glucagon and ketone strips on hand, particularly if you have type 1 diabetes, as well as rubbing alcohol and soap to wash your hands.

The first thing to do if you suspect you have COVID-19 is to call your doctor's office for guidance on what you need to do next.

If you have COVID-19, you'll need to manage your blood sugar as well as possible. These tips may help:

  • Keep taking your diabetes medicines as usual, or follow your doctor's advice.
  • Stay hydrated. If you're having a hard time keeping water down, try taking small sips every 15 minutes or so.
  • Follow your doctor's advice about how often to check your blood sugar. If you use a continuous glucose monitor, keep in mind that some devices are affected by acetaminophen. You may need to do finger sticks to ensure you're getting the right readings.
  • If your blood sugar is low, eat 15 grams of simple carbs. Confirm that your blood sugar is on the rise with a 15-minute recheck.
  • If your blood sugar is high more than two times in a row, check your urine for ketones. This is very important if you have type 1 diabetes. If ketones are present, call your doctor's office right away because you may need to be treated for diabetic ketoacidosis.
  • Wash your hands often. And clean your injection and finger-stick sites with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention