A Diabetic in Cold and Flu Season

Things to watch out for when you catch what's going around the office.

Walt Raleigh picBy Walt Raleigh

Events that are minor annoyances for non-diabetics--like catching "the cold that's going around the office"--can turn into major problems for people with diabetes if not carefully managed.

There are two main concerns that diabetics have with cold and flu season that most people don't:

1. The risk of dehydration, which exists for anyone who gets sick, can be especially bad for people with diabetes.

2. When the body is under stress, as it is when you get sick, the hormones released by your body can further interfere with your metabolism.

The "cold and flu season" may not officially start until October. But if Harry and David can send me my Christmas fruit-basket gift list right after Labor Day, we can start talking now about self-defense for diabetics facing viral respiratory infections.

Especially since, dammit, I'm writing this column with a box of tissues and a cup of hot tea with lemon by my side. (Yes, I've got what's going around. Thanks for asking.)

Herewith, some thoughts (and links) for coping with cold and flu season.


The best defense is a good offense: Try to avoid getting sick in the first place.

Yeah, I know... this sounds a lot like the wry wilderness survival advice that the Royal Air Force once famously used to give its pilots: "Try to crash in the summer months, when there's likely to be more edible fruit around."

But if taking commonsense precautions can keep you healthy, doesn't it make sense to try?

The number one recommendation: Wash your hands. A lot. (And definitely don't eat anything or touch your face before you've done so.)


When flu shots become available later this fall, get one. The Centers for Disease Control ahttp://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/flu-and-pneumonia-shots.html" target="_blank">get a flu shot every year.

And if you haven't had one before, or if it's been several years, ask your doctor whether you need a pneumonia shot as well.


Even when you do all the right things to take care of yourself, it's hard to get through the year without catching one case of the common cold... most adults catch two to four colds a year, or more if they're around potent reservoirs of infection, e.g., school-age children.

If you come down with the creeping crud, plan for some downtime, and manage your illness aggressively:

-- Drink plenty of fluids so that you don't get dehydrated.

-- Monitor your blood glucose levels carefully - you might want to check more often than you normally do.

-- Make sure that you're eating properly - always important, but doubly so when you're under the weather. (Chicken soup is good for you, for a lot of reasons!)

-- If you're experiencing vomiting and diarrhea for more than a few hours, get in touch with your doctor or go to the emergency room if you have to.

The American Diabetes Association has some other good guidelines for self-care here.

Getting a cold is a drag, no doubt about it, but you can do some elementary things that will keep it from developing into a major problem.

dLife's Daily Living columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team to find out what will work best for you.

Last Modified Date: July 10, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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by Brenda Bell
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