The Flu, Pneumonia, and Diabetes

How does high blood sugar affect fighting off illness?

High blood sugar changes the way your body deals with everyday things. One important change is that you are less able to fight off illness. Even a minor “bug” that a healthy person could recover from within days can cause serious problems for you.

Why should I be extra careful to avoid the flu and pneumonia?

People with diabetes who get the flu can have problems controlling their blood sugar and are at risk for flu-related complications, such as pneumonia.

Pneumonia can be serious for anyone, but people with diabetes can be sicker for longer or may need to go to the hospital.

What can I do to help prevent the flu?

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.

What should I talk to my health care provider about?

  • Which symptoms require you to call your health care provider.
  • How often you should check your blood sugar. Because illness can raise your blood sugar, you will probably need to check it more often than usual.
  • If you need to test your urine for ketones when you are sick. Ketones are acids that can build up in your blood when your body does not have enough insulin. This condition is called diabetic ketoacidosis and can be dangerous.
  • If you need to make any changes to your medicine when you are sick.
  • What over-the-counter drugs or vitamins you would like to take to help you feel better. Some of these drugs contain sugar or can raise your blood sugar in other ways.
  • What to eat when sick.
  • If you are having trouble staying hydrated during illness, drink lots of calorie-free liquids like water and diet soft drinks to prevent getting dehydrated.

Call your health care provider if

  • You have been vomiting or having diarrhea for more than 6 hours
  • You have moderate to large ketones in your urine
  • Your chest hurts
  • You are having trouble breathing
  • Your breath smells fruity
  • Your lips or tongue is dry and cracked
  • Your blood sugar levels are higher than 240 mg/dL even though you have taken your medication as directed in your sick-day plan
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