Be prepared!

Injuries and illnesses tend to happen unexpectedly. It’s best to learn how to prevent complications which might occur after viral or bacterial infections, accidental injuries, heart attack, stroke, or even alcohol abuse.

Blood glucose can rise or fall to dangerous levels during illnesses and other stressful events. For example, patients who lose their appetite due to a stomach virus or the seasonal flu might forget to eat—or accidentally skip a dose of medication—causing their blood glucose to fall. Low blood glucose can also result from infections or illnesses that affect the kidneys or liver (these organs clear medications from the body). High blood glucose, on the other hand, can result from a variety of factors including dehydration, missed doses of insulin, consuming medications or drinks that contain added sweeteners, or from the body’s release of stress hormones in response to illness. Extremely high blood glucose can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis or hyperglycemic coma, both potentially life-threatening conditions, so it is important to be prepared.

Feeling under the weather?

  • Alert your health care provider

People with diabetes are more likely than others to require hospitalization, so patients should alert their provider to an illness sooner rather than later. Be aware that the provider might prescribe a low-dose of insulin (or adjust your regular dose of insulin) to regulate blood glucose levels during an illness.

Consult a pharmacist

Before buying any over-the-counter medication or filling a prescription, ask a health care provider or pharmacist if the drug is safe for patients with diabetes. Many medications, including some antibiotics and cold remedies, contain sweeteners and other ingredients that can affect blood glucose.

Monitor blood glucose frequently

Providers recommend monitoring blood glucose every 4 hours during an illness. Patients with type 1 diabetes should adjust their insulin as needed to maintain normal blood glucose levels.

Drink plenty of fluids

Dehydration can raise blood glucose, as can drinking too many sugary beverages such as fruit juice or soda. Safe alternatives include water, unsweetened teas, or sugar free drinks.

Reduce fever

In general, pain pills that contain acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) are safe methods for controlling fever.

Watch for warning signs

Go to an emergency room immediately if the following signs or symptoms develop:

  • Persistent vomiting
  • Inability to keep down food or drink
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty lowering high blood glucose
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