Prevent getting sick by:

  • Getting your flu shot;
  • Eating a healthy diet;
  • Staying hydrated;
  • Getting plenty of sleep; and
  • Quitting smoking.

Take Care of Yourself

When you are sick it is important to continue to monitor your blood sugar levels to avoid hyper- and hypoglycemia.

It is also important to stay hydrated as frequent vomiting can cause dehydration. Make sure to drink at least 8 cups of water per day when you are sick.

When you are sick you still need food to give your body energy. If you are nauseated and do not feel like eating try to choose easy to digest foods such as apple sauce, toast, banana, or juice.

When to Seek Help

Go to the emergency room or consult your doctor if:

  • You are unable to take your insulin or other medication
  • You are unable to tolerate fluids
  • You have persistent hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia
  • Your illness lasts more than 2 days
  • You have type 1 diabetes and your blood ketones are above 3.0 at any time

Type 1 Diabetes

Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)

Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) usually occurs only in Type 1 diabetes. If you have a high level of sugar in your blood and a low level of insulin, your body cannot use the sugar to produce energy. Instead your body will break down fat for energy producing substances called ketones. Excess ketones in your blood can make it acidic, and cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, difficulty breathing, and fruity smelling breath. If left untreated the excess ketones can cause DKA, which can lead to coma or death. DKA is a medical emergency and should be treated in a hospital. Following sick day guidelines and checking your blood sugar with a glucose meter can help prevent DKA.

Insulin Therapy

If your blood sugar levels are high, or there are ketones in your blood, you may need to take additional insulin injections. Your doctor or diabetes educator can teach you how to adjust your insulin when you are sick.

Type 2 Diabetes

Over the Counter Medications

Oral Decongestant treatments for nasal congestion (e.g. Sudafed) are medications in syrup, tablet or powder form. Most oral decongestants contain an ingredient that can have a hyperglycemic effect, especially if recommended doses are exceeded. Instead, it is recommended to drink plenty of water, use a room humidifier and/or a saline nasal vaporizer.

Medications containing sugar (i.e. syrups, powders, chewable tablets, lozenges, etc.) should be avoided by people with diabetes if it contains more than 5 g of carbohydrate per dose or provides more than 80 calories/day. If these medications are taken, on occasion, they should be included in the overall carbohydrate count of your meal plan. When possible, choose sugar-free versions instead.

Consult with your pharmacist if you have any questions about over the counter medications.