The flu and diabetes

If you have diabetes, whether it's type 1 or type 2, you are at increased risk of flu complications and severe infection. Flu complications include being hospitalized, getting pneumonia, experiencing respiratory distress, or even death.

The flu can have several effects on your body if you have diabetes:

  • Severe flu infection can result because diabetes can cause your immune system to be weaker.
  • Your blood sugar levels may fluctuate. Sometimes when you are sick, you may not feel like eating, which can cause your blood sugar levels to go up and down. And being sick with the flu can increase your blood sugar levels.

People with diabetes aren't the only ones who are at high risk for flu complications and severe infection. People with asthma, heart disease, weakened immune systems, and many others with chronic medical conditions are also at risk. Are you at risk for flu complications?

There are a few steps you can take to protect yourself from the flu:

  • Wash your hands properly (at least 20 seconds with soap and water) and frequently.
  • Avoid crowds, and stay home if you think you have the flu.
  • Cough and sneeze into your arm (not your hand!).
  • Eat healthy foods and get regular exercise to keep your immune system strong.
  • Get vaccinated. Your doctor may recommend you get the yearly flu vaccine and the pneumococcal vaccine.
  • Manage your diabetes. Take your medication, monitor your blood sugar levels, and follow the treatment plan as recommended by your health care provider.

If you do end up catching the flu, it's important to see your doctor as soon as you notice the first signs of flu symptoms. Don't wait until your symptoms worsen. People with diabetes should see their doctor as soon as possible so that they can begin treatment. Early treatment with antiviral medication can help reduce the risk of flu complications. Talk to your doctor using the Seasonal Flu Doctor Discussion Guide.

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