Flu, Common Cold, and Diabetes
What to do when you're feeling the flu
Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!
December 2007 — In the Northern Hemisphere, Thanksgiving happens right around the time when it's easier to hear people cough in tandem while congregated in public or private places. Sore throat, muscle aches, headaches, and general discomfort tend to accompany cough as manifestations of two of the seemingly most inevitable viruses that humans face every year - influenza, also commonly known as "the flu" and its cousin, the common cold.
If you are reading this, there is a chance you have diabetes or someone you know has diabetes. This being the case, have gotten a flu shot yet? If the answer to this is no, make sure you schedule time as soon as possible to do so. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "people with diabetes who come down with the flu may become very sick and may die." So, people with diabetes need to take the flu more seriously than everyone else.
How Do I Know I'm Sick?
The symptoms for the common cold and the flu are very similar (headache, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose and body aches). But the flu also typically comes bundled with high fever and extreme tiredness, as well as diarrhea and vomiting (most commonly among children). Still, even if you have some or all of these symptoms, you need to see a health-care provider to be diagnosed.
I Am Sick: What Do I Do?
Let's face it: you may have not gotten the flu shot yet or worse even, you already have the symptoms of the flu (or the common cold, which look alike except for the fever and extreme exhaustion typical in the flu). So what can you do at this point?
Besides pulling out the millennial hot chicken soup recipe that has survived generations in your family (which will likely make you feel relieved while it helps you stay hydrated), staying at home to rest, and covering your mouth when coughing or sneezing, there's a number of things you should do to maintain your diabetes while managing the flu:
- Test your blood sugars at least eight times per day.
- Test your urine for ketones in the event of high blood sugars.
- In general, stick to your sick day plan.
- If your symptoms worsen, contact your primary care physician.
How Do I Avoid Catching The Bug?
Both, the common cold and the flu are transmitted in a similar way: by contact with fluids from people contaminated with the virus. Therefore, you can do the following things to stay healthy:
- Avoid crowded places where the odds of being around people who are sick with the flu or a cold are higher.
- Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly for best results.
- Have other people close to you get a flu shot.
And if you are wondering whether you still should get the flu shot if you got it last year, wonder no more: flu shots do not last for more than a year. So whether you took it last year or not, you still need to get another flu shot this year.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
As a Type A personality with a perfectionist streak, diabetes management is something that easily gets under my skin. If I can’t do something perfect, then I’d much rather just not do it at all. Which is why burnout creeps up on me super fast. A few days of pesky numbers and I am ready to throw all things diabetes out the window and watch it get hit by an 18-wheeler. So attempting to get my A1c into the lowest possible range ever has proven incredibly tasking for my perfectionist...