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Do You Have a Cold or Flu, Plus Diabetes?

Colds and flu are no fun, and they can be even worse if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Infections, dehydration, and sugar in some medicines can make it harder to manage your blood sugar.

You can take steps to sidestep those problems and stay well.

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Get a flu shot every year. It can prevent many types of flu or keep flu viruses from making you so ill. September may be the best month to get this vaccine, because it protects you for about 6 months. But you can get a flu shot any time during flu season.

Also, ask your doctor if you need the pneumonia shot. This vaccine can also help protect you from blood infections and meningitis.

What You Should Know About Cold and Flu Medicines

The main problem for people with diabetes is that some cold and flu drugs, such as cough syrups, may have sugar in them. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to recommend over-the-counter drugs that are safe for you. Keep those product names handy for future reference.

Make a Sick-Day Plan

Everyone gets a cold or flu sometime. Your doctor, nurse, or diabetes educator can help you prepare. They'll probably recommend that you do the following:

  • Test for ketones if your blood sugar level is over 240 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Call your doctor if it shows any ketones.
  • Take your temperature regularly.
  • Drink one cup of liquid every hour you're awake. Water and broth are good choices.
  • Try to eat 45-50 grams of carbohydrates every 3 to 4 hours. If you can't eat solid food, try clear soup, regular soft drinks, Popsicles, unsweetened applesauce, apple juice, or sports drinks.

When to Call Your Doctor

If you have diabetes and also a cold or flu, call your doctor if:

  • Your blood sugar level remains higher than 180 mg/dL.
  • Your blood sugar level remains lower than 70 mg/dL.
  • You cannot keep down solids or liquids.
  • Your temperature is over 101 F.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on September 01, 2014

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