Taking Care of Your Diabetes When You Are Sick

IMAGE Whether you have a head cold or the flu, being sick can put all of your activities on hold. You are forced to stop and take care of yourself. But, if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, this demands extra attention. When you are sick, you are more likely to have a high blood sugar (glucose) level also known as hyperglycemia. This happens because your body creates more hormones to fight infection, and these hormones can counteract the effects of insulin. If insulin cannot do its job, then glucose builds up in the blood.

Test Your Blood Sugar Often

Since being sick puts you at risk for hyperglycemia, you should consider checking your blood glucose more often. You may need to test several times a day, even if your normal routine is to test just once a day.What is considered high? This depends on your target range. According to the American Diabetes Association, you should aim for tight control, keeping glucose levels as close to normal as possible (70-130 milligrams per deciliter [mg/dL] before a meal, less than 180 mg/dL 2 hours after starting a meal). But not everyone is able to achieve this. Ask your doctor what levels are right for you and when you should call for additional medical advice. You also need to know how to adjust your medication to treat high glucose levels. Ask about the amount of insulin you should give yourself to bring the levels down. If you take oral diabetes medication, find out how to adjust the dose. If you do not already have this information, work with your doctor to create a sick day plan so that you will be prepared. In addition to testing your blood glucose levels, be alert for the symptoms of hyperglycemia such as having to urinate frequently, being very thirsty, and having blurry vision.

Test for Ketoacidosis

If you have diabetes and high glucose levels, you are at risk for a dangerous condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), especially if you have type 1 diabetes. DKA happens because the body does not have enough insulin, and your body cannot use glucose for fuel. Instead yur body uses protein and fats for fuel. This leads to a build up of a by-product called ketones. When they build up they can make you seriously ill. Symptoms usually begin with very dry mouth and frequent urination. Later, you may experience fatigue, dry or flushed skin, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, difficulty breathing, fruity odor on breath, and confusion. If you have any of these symptoms, call for emergency medical services right away.Ketone levels can be checked with urine tests that are sold at drug stores. Ask your doctor whether you should check for ketones while you are sick and when you should test (such as a blood glucose level over 240 mg/dL). Call the doctor if the results show moderate to large amounts of ketones.

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