(October 1, 2020)
People with Diabetes Should Get Flu Shots
As can be expected every autumn, the flu is here again. According to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
reducing the spread of respiratory illnesses, like flu, this fall and winter is more important than ever
because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
CDC has worked with vaccine manufacturers to have extra flu vaccine available this flu season. Manufacturers have already begun distributing flu vaccine and will continue to distribute vaccine throughout the season. CDC recommends getting a flu vaccination in September or October but getting vaccinated anytime during the flu season can help protect you.
People with diabetes (type 1, type 2, or gestational), even when well-managed, are at high risk of serious flu complications, which can result in hospitalization and sometimes even death. Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections are examples of flu-related complications. In recent seasons, about 30 percent of adult flu hospitalizations reported to CDC have had diabetes. Flu also can make chronic health problems, like diabetes, worse. This is because diabetes can make the immune system less able to fight infections. Acute illnesses can make it harder to control your blood sugar. Flu may raise your sugar levels, but sometimes people don’t feel like eating when they are sick and a reduced appetite can cause blood sugar levels to fall. It is important for people with diabetes to follow the sick day guidelines if they become ill.
The CDC’s website has several webpages with information about the flu for people with diabetes:
Frequently Asked Influenza (Flu) Questions: 2020-2021 Season
Flu & People with Diabetes
People who have diabetes also should be up to date with pneumococcal vaccination to help protect against pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcal vaccination should be part of a diabetes management plan.
There’s a lot to digest, so I’ll summarize some of the highlights from these webpages here.
To start with, everyone should
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
- Clean your hands. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Practice other good health habits: Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food. And quit smoking.
If you have diabetes, even if your blood sugars are in good control, and are sick with flu-like illness, the CDC suggests that you should follow these additional steps:
- Be sure to continue taking your diabetes pills or insulin. Don’t stop taking them even if you can’t eat. Your health care provider may even advise you to take more insulin during sickness.
- Test your blood glucose every four hours, and keep track of the results.
- Drink extra (calorie-free) liquids, and try to eat as you normally would. If you can’t, try to have soft foods and liquids containing the equivalent amount of carbohydrates that you usually consume.
- Weigh yourself every day. Losing weight without trying is a sign of high blood glucose.
- Check your temperature every morning and evening. A fever may be a sign of infection.
- Call your health care provider or go to an emergency room if any of the following happen to you:
- You feel too sick to eat normally and are unable to keep down food for more than 6 hours.
- You're having severe diarrhea.
- You lose 5 pounds or more.
- Your temperature is over 101 degrees F.
- Your blood glucose is lower than 60 mg/dL or remains over 300 mg/dL.
- You have moderate or large amounts of ketones in your urine.
- You're having trouble breathing.
- You feel sleepy or can't think clearly.
To wrap up: If you haven’t done so already, get a flu shot. I’ve gotten mine, and now it’s your turn!