Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists

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Preparing for Illness When You Have Diabetes

Feb 07, 2020

by Board Member Kellie Rodriguez, MSN, MBA, CDEKellie_Rodriguez

I am not sure about you but currently not a day goes by that I don’t have a family member, friend or colleague reporting to be afflicted by illness this winter. Children, adults and older adults… sneezing, coughing, fever and body aches seem to be present at every turn!

For people living with diabetes, influenza prevention and management is particularly important. Challenges to normal immune function in diabetes makes infection risk higher, resulting in greater risk for morbidity and even mortality.

Influenza is particularly relevant at this time of the year. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that so far this season there have been at least 19 million flu illnesses, 180,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 deaths from flu. Influenza B virus is most commonly reported among those aged 0-24 years (up to 72% of reported virus), while influenza A is most commonly reported in those aged 25 years and above (up to 57% of reported virus).


Infection and the associated stress on the body can cause havoc with glucose management and so it is important to be prepared before illness strikes.


Prevention is key! One of the most important steps in preventing influenza, is to ensure everyone aged 6 months and above receives an annual flu vaccine BEFORE flu activity begins in the community – ideally by October - with preference for the flu shot over nasal spray flu vaccine . Antibodies can take up to 2 weeks to develop after vaccination. Other steps to help prevent transmission include:

  • Washing hands with soap and water
  • Covering your nose and mouth with coughing and sneezing
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth 
  • Disinfect potential contaminated surfaces
  • Avoiding close contact with those with influenza

For people with diabetes, preparing for illness requires additional planning with the recommendation to establish an ‘illness kit.’ Infection and the associated stress on the body can cause havoc with glucose management and so it is important to be prepared before illness strikes. A diabetes illness kit should contain items such as:

  • Care team contact information
  • Emergency service information
  • Glucose test strips and lancets
  • Ketone strips (if type 1 diabetes)
  • Glucagon
  • Sugar free cough syrup and lozenges
  • Medications for nausea
  • Diarrhea and constipation
  • Prescribed diabetes treatments
  • Sugar and sugar-free fluids 

Ongoing monitoring, especially glucose management and fluid intake, is very important and often forgotten when illness hits. Every person with diabetes should establish a sickness plan with their care team, specific to their individualized needs.

Other important vaccination recommendations for people with diabetes can be found in the ADCES practice paper Vaccination Practices for Adults with Diabetes and the ADA 2020 Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes. For additional tips, visit DiabetesEducator.org/vaccination.

Stay healthy!


ADCES Perspectives on Diabetes Care

The Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists Perspectives on Diabetes Care covers diabetes, prediabetes and other cardiometabolic conditions. Not all views expressed reflect the official position of the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists.

Copyright is owned or held by the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists and all rights are reserved. Permission is granted, at no cost and without need for further request, to link to, quote, excerpt or reprint from these stories in any medium as long as no text is altered, and proper attribution is made to the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists.

HEALTHCARE DISCLAIMER: This site and its services do not constitute the practice of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always talk to your diabetes care and education specialist or healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment, including your specific medical needs. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. To find a diabetes care and education specialist near you, visit DiabetesEducator.org/Find.

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