Sick Day Management for People with Diabetes

Being ill or injured can make your blood sugar hard to manage. Get tips for staying in control of your diabetes when you're feeling under the weather.

When you live with diabetes—either type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes—you need to know the basics of sick day management.  This article talks about what to do when you get sick:  how to take care of your diabetes and make sure you get better soon.

sick day

You should have a sick day plan that you work out with your doctor.  This should spell out details such as blood glucose testing guidelines, medications you can take, and insulin adjustments.  It’s also a good idea to include important phone numbers on this plan:  Having everything in one place will make it easier for you when you are (or your child with diabetes is) sick.

If you prepare now for sick days, you are much more likely to get through illnesses without any additional diabetes-related complications.

Sick Day Management Tips for People with Diabetes
While you may feel tired and listless, your body is working hard to fend off the germs or injury that is making you sick. Your body is also burning a lot of calories, and using other resources, as it works to fight the illness. You need to provide your body what it needs to beat back the illness.

Here are some sick day management tips:

  • Measure your blood glucose levels frequently:  A general guideline is every 3 to 4 hours, but your doctor will specify what you should do.
  • Measure your ketones:  If your blood glucose level goes higher than 250 mg/dL, use a ketone strip test to see if you have diabetic ketoacidosis.
  • Keep taking your diabetes medications and/or insulin:  It almost makes sense to think you don’t need your medications or as much insulin when you aren’t eating normally—however, that is not true.  You still need to work hard to control your blood glucose level, which can continue to rise when you’re sick.  Therefore, stick to your medication and/or insulin plan.
  • Make sure you know what medications to take:  Over-the-counter medications—for colds or the flu, for example—may affect your blood glucose levels.  You should talk to your doctor about what medications are all right for you to take when you’re sick.
  • Make a list of foods and snacks to eat:  Even if you don’t feel like it, you must continue to eat when you’re sick and you have diabetes.  Know what foods you can eat—maybe, for example, you need to eat foods that are easy on your stomach.  Saltine crackers are good for that.
  • Stay hydrated:  Drink water and sports drinks to stay hydrated.  Make sure, though, that you watch how much sugar you’re taking in.
  • Go to the emergency room if necessary:  Especially if you develop diabetic ketoacidosis (a complication of hyperglycemia that’s more common in people with type 1 diabetes), you need to go to the hospital.  Listen to your body and take good care of it.

Because of the potential for hypoglycemia (dangerously low blood glucose) and other complications during illness, sick days are opportunities to be more cautious about your diabetes. Allow your body time to relax and recover. Put your diabetes sick day plan together now so that you can devote time and energy to healing when you need it.

Updated on: August 4, 2016
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