Ahh, the crunch of frost underfoot, the glow of the fireplace – and mucus running down your face while checking your blood glucose levels.
Yes, these are the delights of winter. Those with diabetes know that winter comes with some extra planning to avoid the flu.
Having diabetes means that illness takes an additional toll on the body. While everybody else is taking the standard steps to avoid the flu – wrapping up warm, getting enough sleep, and keeping clean hands – diabetes challenges come with their own further considerations.
To make things easier, we’ve made a list of what to do both for avoiding the flu and treating it.
Get Ready for Diabetes and the flu
Flu season is upon us. Prevent it.
Consider the flu shot
In many countries, flu shots are often free as part of the nation’s health service for those with diabetes. Immunisation is the best way to protect yourself, to either avoid the flu completely or lessen its effects. New influenza (H1N1) vaccinations are available each year; diabetes.co.uk recommends taking that yearly flu shot. We know you’re used to needles, so this should be a breeze, right?
You already arm yourself with your diabetes kit wherever you go. But during this season, it’s even more important to consider what you have in your arsenal – such as a glucagon kit, glucose tablets, additional test strips or hand wipes. Anti-bacterial hand gel is also handy (pun absolutely intended) as well as a packet of tissues.
While perhaps obvious to stay hygienic, those with diabetes should remain particularly attentive. Stay away from those who are sneezing or coughing, wash your hands, and keep your hands away from your face.
Know the symptoms
You’re probably already aware of the symptoms: runny nose, headache, aching joints, coughing, tiredness, chills, fever. Remember to bear these in mind, while also knowing your own symptoms. You know your body the best; listen to what your body is telling you.
Overcome the flu
Despite your efforts to remain flu-free – while battling the crowds during the Christmas shop and simultaneously skidding along the icy pavements, all while keeping your blood glucose levels in order – you have caught the bug. Here’s what to do.
Regularly check blood glucose
The flu leads to an increase in blood glucose levels and occasionally a decrease (if not consuming enough carbohydrates when ill). This is because the body deals with more stress hormones to fight the illness: stress and diabetes leads to high blood sugar.
So, remember to check your blood glucose levels more often than usual. Because the flu may distract from the familiar feelings of low or high blood glucose, someone with diabetes should remain vigilant. This is where those extra test strips come into use.
There are different options depending on what you would like to alleviate. For instance, an antihistamine relieves congestion or sneezing. The key is considering what the medicine contains. Avoid medication that contains too much sugar. Choose pills over syrups, since they are less likely to include carbs.
Additionally, be aware of what certain medicine will do. Decongestants can increase blood glucose levels and aspirin can lower it – another reason to regularly check blood glucose levels. If in doubt, ask your pharmacist to advise.
Similarly, it’s worth checking your ketones (again, those extra test strips are handy). If your blood glucose levels are above 15 mmol/L or 270 mg/dL, then begin to check ketones. If your ketone levels are too high, contact a doctor immediately.
Eat well and hydrate
With diabetes and the flu, you may begin to feel less hungry. It’s important, however, to keep eating as you normally would, to avoid any large changes in your blood glucose levels. If you’re feeling particularly low, make sure to measure your blood glucose and to eat or drink accordingly.
At the same time, make sure you’re drinking enough – generally, 1-1.5 litres a day. To combine nourishment and hydration while keeping warm, why not try a tasty broth? For further food ideas in winter, try these 3 recipes!
The change in your blood glucose levels can lead to weight loss. Weigh yourself daily to ensure you are not losing weight rapidly.
Enjoy the Season
The flu may feel inevitable at this time of year, but don’t stress: now you know what to do. Leave the flu quaking in its boots by being extra attentive and you’ll be feeling better in time to receive your aunt’s infamous knitted Christmas sweater. Just relax and enjoy the season.
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