Fight the flu when you have diabetes

Are you living with diabetes? Did you know that in addition to exercising, eating healthy, controlling your blood sugar level and taking your medication as prescribed by your doctor, getting your annual influenza vaccination is an important part of diabetes management(1)? This is because when you are living with diabetes, you are at a higher risk of catching the flu(2) and becoming very ill from it(2).

Why am I at a higher risk of influenza-related complications?

Viral infections, such as the flu, can lead to higher blood sugar levels(3). Elevated blood sugar during a viral infection is the result of the hormones your body produces to fight the infection(4). These hormones make it hard for your body to use insulin, and can result in an increase of your blood sugar levels(4) and put you at risk of ketoacidosis or Hypersomolar Hyperglycaemic State(3). Furthermore, a high blood sugar level hinders your white blood cells’ ability to fight off infections(5). As a result, this puts you at a higher risk of developing flu-related complications such as pneumonia(3).

Taking suitable flu medication

Another aspect you need to be mindful of when you are living with diabetes is ensuring that you take suitable flu medication when you have the flu. Some over-the-counter flu medications contain ibuprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, that is not normally recommended for diabetic patients as it can increase the risk of stroke and heart problems(3). Some flu medications can also have a high sugar content(3), so check with your doctor or pharmacist before purchasing over-the-counter medications to treat your flu symptoms.

Avoid catching the flu this winter!

Studies have shown that people living with diabetes are six times more likely to be hospitalised because of flu-related complications and three times more likely to die from these complications(1). So, catching the flu while you are living with diabetes is no small matter!

The good thing is that seasonal flu is considered a vaccine-preventable disease(6), and the flu vaccine is the most effective way to protect yourself from the influenza virus(6). Also, practicing good health habits such as washing your hands regularly, covering your mouth and nose, avoiding close contact with people who are ill, and staying home when you are not feeling well can all ensure that you avoid catching the flu(7). So this flu season, practice good health habits, and don’t forget to ask your doctor about the flu vaccine and the best way to incorporate it as part of your diabetes management.



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