An annual flu shot is highly recommended for diabetics. Here’s what diabetics should do when they get the flu.
Having diabetes is a risk factor for many other conditions, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and kidney failure. Compared to the non-diabetic population, people with diabetes (whether type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, or even gestational diabetes) are more vulnerable to infections such as influenza (flu). They are also at risk of serious complications of the flu, which can lead to hospitalization and even death.
Dangers of combining flu and diabetes: It is estimated that diabetics are six times more likely to be hospitalized due to flu complications than non-diabetics. Even when diabetes is well managed, flu in diabetics can cause bronchitis, sinus and ear infections, and pneumonia. Plus, the flu can make it harder to control their blood sugar levels.
The flu can trigger diabetic ketoacidosis (a build-up of acid in the blood) and hyperosmolar hyperglycemic nonketotic syndrome (marked by extremely high blood sugar, severe dehydration, and confusion). Both are life-threatening emergencies that require immediate medical attention.
So, how can diabetics avoid getting the flu and reduce complications?
Influenza vaccination: a safe and simple way to prevent flu
Tips for managing diabetes usually include eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, monitoring and controlling blood sugar, and taking medications as prescribed. But many diabetics may not know that the annual flu vaccination is also an important component of diabetes management.
Health agencies such as the American Diabetes Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourage people with diabetes to get vaccinated against the flu every year for protection against the flu.
Several studies have shown that flu vaccination can reduce the risk of getting sick with flu as well as reduce the severity of illness and hospitalizations.
People with diabetes are also advised to get the pneumococcal vaccine because getting the flu can increase their risk of getting pneumococcal disease.
What to do if people with diabetes get the flu?
It is possible to get the flu even after taking precautions, as it is a contagious disease. If you have flu symptoms or suspect flu infection, it is advised to seek medical attention without any further delay. Because antiviral drugs are most effective in the first 48 hours after getting the flu. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment means a faster recovery and a lower chance of flu-related complications.
Watch for flu symptoms, which include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.
People with diabetes should also keep an eye out for warning signs of flu-related complications:
- difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- glucose level greater than 240 mg/dL
- Breathlessness, dry mouth and skin, frequent urination and confusion (symptoms of ketoacidosis)
- Dizziness, headache, decreased urination, tiredness (symptoms of dehydration).
- severe weakness or unsteadiness
- severe muscle pain
take away: Vaccination is the best defense against flu and related complications. Annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months of age or older, especially people with diabetes.
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