Managing Diabetes & COVID-19
** Please note – recommendations, guidelines & information regarding diabetes management & COVID-19 is rapidly changing. The information in this post is current as of May 2021 **
By now, we are all very well aware of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the infectious disease caused by a novel coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2 that was first reported in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. It is not currently believed that individuals living with diabetes (regardless of the type of diabetes) are more likely to become infected with COVID-19 compared to people without diabetes though research is ongoing in this area. There is also not enough data at this time to determine whether COVID-19 contributes to the onset of diabates. That being said however, since the beginning of the pandemic, studies have consistently shown that adults living with diabetes who do contract COVID-19 are more likely to have serious symptoms, complications & poorer outcomes than individuals without diabetes.
If you have diabetes, you can reduce your risk of getting COVID-19 by following all public health guidelines including:
- Washing your hands often with soap & water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 70% alcohol content
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
- Coughing or sneezing into a tissue or the bend in your arm, not your hand
- Wearing a mask or face covering
- Minimizing the number of people you have close contact with
- Maintaining a physical distance of 2 metres from people outside of your household
- Staying at home when sick or feeling unwell
- Cleaning & disinfecting high-touch surfaces such as toilets, door handles, etc.
- Getting the COVID-19 vaccine when it is accessible to you. There is no single COVID-19 vaccine that is better than others for people with diabetes.
If you are an adult living with diabetes & have symptoms such as a cough, fever or shortness of breath, contact your primary care physician or local public health authority. If you take medications to help manage your diabetes, it is recommended that you continue to take your medications as prescribed unless you are told otherwise by a healthcare provided or if you are unable to eat or drink normally. If you test your blood sugars, it is recommended that you test your blood sugars more frequently when you feel unwell. If you become unwell for any reason, it is important that you follow sick day management guidelines. These guidelines may be different depending on what diabetes medications you take. Make sure to contact your healthcare provider or diabetes care team if you need assistance in this area.
In some individuals living with diabetes, blood sugars may be harder to control when feeling unwell or fighting an infection such as COVID-19. Blood sugars can become too high or too low when you are ill. Usually, once the infection has passed, blood sugars become easier to manage. Because of this, it is important for you to become familiar with signs & symptoms of both high blood sugars (hyperglycemia) versus low blood sugars (hypoglycemia) & to test blood sugars more frequently.
Should you become infected with COVID-19 it is important for you to be prepared & to have a plan in place. Your plan may include:
- Gathering contact information for your doctors, pharmacy, insurance providers, dietitians, nurses, family members, etc. to contact in case of an emergency
- If you live alone, make sure someone you can rely on knows you have diabetes as you may require assistance when ill
- Writing down the name & doses of all medications
- Ensuring you have enough medication & diabetes supplies (e.g. blood glucose test strips, insulin pens, pump supplies, etc.) for 1-2 weeks in case you cannot get to the pharmacy
- Ensuring all medications have refills available so that you do not have to leave the house if you are ill
- Reviewing how to properly treat a low blood sugar event & keeping fast-acting carbohydrate (e.g. juice, regular pop, Rockets candy) on hand at all times.
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