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Diabetes: Sick Days

How does illness affect diabetes?

Diabetes is harder to control when you are sick. The body releases hormones to help fight the illness. These hormones affect the way your body uses insulin, which can cause a rise in blood glucose levels. This means blood sugar can get very high during an illness. If the high blood sugar is not treated, it can make you very sick and become a medical emergency.

How do I prepare for illness?

It is good to be prepared for illness with a sick-day plan. Your healthcare provider will work with you to develop a plan designed specially for you. The plan may include:

  • when and how to contact your provider
  • how often to check your blood sugar when you are sick (you will need to check it more often)
  • how you should take your diabetes medicines
  • the use of more frequent doses of short-acting insulin when you are sick
  • what to do if you have a fever
  • what to do if you feel sick to your stomach or are throwing up
  • what foods and liquids are safe to eat and drink
  • if you have type 1 diabetes, when to check for urine ketones.

How can I take care of myself when I am sick?

  • Follow your sick-day plan.
  • Have your sick day plan written down where family or friends can read it so they also can know what to do.
  • Unless your provider tells you not to, keep taking your medicines when you are sick. If you are unable to take your diabetes medicine, call your provider.
  • Keep sick-day foods on hand and try to drink extra fluids.
  • Keep your provider informed about how you are doing (for example, whether you are getting worse or better).

How can I keep from getting sick?

People with diabetes are more likely to become ill. This is because diabetes weakens the immune system, which your body uses to fight infection. You can help prevent some infections by:

  • Staying up to date on immunizations (For example, get a flu shot every year. Most healthcare providers also recommend getting the pneumonia shot.)
  • Washing your hands often with warm water and soap, especially when you are in public places.
  • Checking your feet every day for signs of rash, injury, and infection.
  • Choosing healthy foods, especially fruits and vegetables.
  • Exercising according to your provider's recommendation.

For more information about illness and diabetes, contact the American Diabetes Association at 800-342-2383, or visit their Web site at

Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-10-04
Last reviewed: 2010-03-08
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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