Dealing With Diabetes When Sicknesses Arise

Posted by Tiffany Weekes
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If you’re a diabetic, or caring for someone who is, you might have some questions that require clarity on what to do if sicknesses arise.  Being informed on this topic is very important since illnesses can cause one’s body to release hormones that help fight disease; but these same hormones have a downside as it relates to diabetes.   They can raise blood sugar levels and interfere with the blood sugar-lowering effects of insulin.

During an illness, it is more difficult to keep blood sugar in the target range.  As a result, ‘ketoacidosis’ can develop with Type 1 diabetes, in particular.  This can lead to a diabetic coma.  A similar condition, called ‘hyperosmolar hyperglycemic nonketotic coma’ can develop in Type 2 diabetics.  Both conditions can be fatal.


What Do I Do If I’m Sick?

Be proactive and prepare a sickness plan; and use the wisdom of your diabetes educator to plan out a strategy before you need one.  If you don’t have a plan, as of yet, you’ll need to know:

  • 1.  when to call your doctor
  • 2.  how often you will need to measure your blood sugar and urine ketone
  • 3.  what medicines to take and not take
  • 4.  when to eat and what to eat

Additionally, attach a list of phone numbers of your doctor, diabetes educator and dietician.  Be especially proactive by knowing how to reach them on weekends, evenings and holidays.


Call Your Diabetes Team When…

  • 1.  your sickness or fever has lasted a couple days and shows no signs of disappearing
  • 2.  vomiting or diarrhea has been persistent for 6 hours or more
  • 3.  you have moderate to large amounts of ketones in your urine
  • 4.  glucose levels are higher than 240 in spite of your having taken extra insulin as a sick-day plan would call for
  • 5.  you’ve taken pills for your diabetes and your blood sugar level climbs to more than 240 before meals and remains there beyond a 24-hour period
  • 6.   you have symptoms that could indicate something very serious such as difficulty breathing, lips and tongue becoming dry and cracked, fruity-smelling breath, etc.
  • 7.  you begin to feel, even remotely, disoriented and feel unsure about how to care for yourself


Know What You Need To Know!

  • 1.  Monitor your blood glucose level and urine ketones every 4 hours and jot down the results.
  • 2.  If it’s difficult to keep food down, don’t skip any prescribed medications!  You need them since your body makes extra sugar when you are sick!
  • 3.  During your awake times, drink a minimum of 8 oz. of any caffeine-free/calorie-free liquid every hour, such as water and diet soft drinks.  Additional fluids will help rid your body of extra sugar in your blood.
  • 4.  If it’s truly hard to keep food down, force yourself to drink ginger ale.  You still require calories; and not eating enough could lead to low blood glucose.  Some “easy to eat” foods should be on hand and attempted, such as regular gelatin, crackers, soups, and applesauce.
  • 5.  Other liquid-type foods that can come to your rescue include juice, frozen juice bars, sherbert, pudding, creamed soups, broth and fruit-flavored yogurt.
  • 6.  Be aware that many medicines can affect your blood sugar levels so ask a pharmacist about sugar-free medications.  Aspirin, antibiotics and decongestants can raise or lower blood sugar levels; so again, it’s important to know the side-effects of these types of products before you ever become ill.


 Keep this additional phone number handy:   1-800-832-6874– the American Association of Diabetes Educators.    Be proactive; stay healthy! Also, check out Miss Burgin is a regular writer who has 2 kids and lives in the mid-west. 


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