Are you diabetic and have been a victim of sneeze, sore throat, cough, and runny nose? It can be the case of cold or flu. Fall and winters are the major seasons when these viruses occur the most. Usually, adults can have 2 to 3 attacks of cold or flu each year while children can develop around 6 to 12 per year. Unfortunately, unlike others, people with diabetes have special considerations for fighting infections like flu and cold. This builds more stress in you, affecting the blood sugar levels leading to serious complications. Here are certain things you need to know while fighting these infections if you are diabetic and infected by the virus.
1) Which medications are safe for me?
Although there are several over-the-counter medications to treat the symptoms of flu and cold, most of them contain sugar. For example, cough syrups, cough drops, and other liquid flu or cough medicines. So, check the label and pick the sugar-free products to the extent possible.
Ask your doctor about the need for dosage adjustments of the insulin medications or other anti-diabetic drugs you are taking.
2) Monitor glucose levels and ketones more often
You need more frequent monitoring of your blood glucose level when you have the infections such as cold or flu. This is because of the release of certain chemicals which alter the insulin response. Also, some of the medications such as decongestants can affect your blood glucose levels.
You must take readings for every 3-4 hours and inform your doctor if there is a drastic change in the sugar levels. If your blood sugar level is above 250mg/dL, then check for the presence of ketones. Call your doctor if ketones are present.
3) What should I eat?
When you have a cold or flu, you may neither feel very hungry nor thirsty. However, being a diabetic patient, you need to eat on time to maintain your blood sugar levels constant. If you have difficulty eating solid foods, then try liquid foods like soups, apple juices, etc. Eat at least 45-50 grams of carbohydrates every 3 to 4 hours, if you cannot eat as usual.
Keeping your immune system healthy is important and is possible through the intake of a range of nutrients. You may incorporate the following foods into your diabetic meal to boost up your immune system.
Onions and garlic: The antioxidants from onions and garlic ward off several types of bacteria and viruses.
Chicken noodle soup: It thins and clears the mucus and provides the required fluids.
Citrus fruits: Mega-doses of vitamin C obtained from these fruits boost up the immune system.
Hot tea: It soothes a sore throat and also contains certain chemicals to support the immune system.
4) How to stay hydrated?
People with flu may have diarrhea along with vomiting and nausea. So it is more important to stay well hydrated. Try to sip a cup of liquids every hour throughout the day. It is more important to drink sugar-free drinks if your sugar levels are spiking. In contrast, if your sugar levels are low, take drinks which serve about 15 grams of carbohydrates (e.g. grape juice, 1/4th cup).
5) When should I consult a doctor?
In spite of taking the above measures, you may still need a doctor’s help if:
- your sugar levels are above 180 mg/dL or below 70 mg/dL
- your body temperature is higher than 101 F
- you cannot down fluids or food
- you have vomiting or diarrhea
Remember, cold and flu do not last forever, and you may not feel as miserable as you are feeling now. The above tips can help you to stay well and sidestep the problems with diabetes complications when you have a cold or flu.
As you all know, prevention is the first line of defense, the best measure you can take is to put maximum efforts to prevent these infections especially if you are diabetic. Get vaccinated for flu every year. Wash your hands thoroughly to avoid entry of germs into your body.