Why diabetes and the flu aren’t a good mix
Diabetes is a disease that can act as a conduit to a host of other health problems such as cardiovascular disease, nerve and kidney damage. So, the thought of preventing annual ailments, such as the flu, seems like a good choice for people with diabetes. But is that true? Are flu shots necessary if you have diabetes?
Regardless of whether you are diabetic or not, when you get sick with the flu, the body goes into overdrive to create additional glucose, or blood sugar, to provide energy and fight the infection. Unfortunately, people with diabetes normally have increased glucose and these high levels can limit the ability of white blood cells to fight infections. This can also cause the body to release stress hormones which can reduce the effectiveness of insulin, making glucose levels even harder to bring down.
“For many, optimizing blood sugars is difficult enough,” says Dr. Michael Aleksandrowicz, a family medicine physician at the Aurora Health Care. “Getting sick with a virus that we all know we will be exposed to just makes this even more difficult.”
If you have diabetes or any other chronic health condition, the extra risk is there and getting a flu shot every year is critical.
“I have already received my vaccine,” concludes Dr. Aleksandrowicz. “No one wants to miss out on important life events because of a preventable illness .”
Some tips for people with diabetes to remember during flu season include:
- Flu prevention: If you are diabetic, get your annual flu shot and get it early. The flu shot normally takes two weeks before it is effective.
- If you get the flu: Seek help from your doctor or a medical professional as soon as you can. If they can diagnose you early enough, they can start you on medications.
- Check your glucose levels often: Getting sick can throw off glucose numbers as your body is fighting the infection. To ensure that your numbers stay in range, you might need to check them more often, possibly multiple times a day. Check with your doctor or health care team to determine the best frequency.
- Check your over-the-counter medications: Many common flu and fever medications have added sugar in them, so they aren’t recommended for diabetics. Be sure to read the label and plan accordingly.
About the Author
Colin graduated from Marquette University with a degree in communications and has more than 10 years of experience in small marketing firms to Fortune 500 companies. Colin is married to his wonderful wife, Brooke, and they have two children. Outside of work, Colin enjoys golf, going to the gym, watching movies (he is a Star Wars nerd), tinkering with his home theater and spending time with family and friends.