How To Control Blood Sugar Levels When Sick

When people get sick, their bodies are stressed and blood sugar levels rise. If you have diabetes, your body will not release the insulin necessary to regulate the elevated glucose. So, although you are feeling lousy with sniffles or a fever, it is necessary to be extra vigilant about blood sugar management.

When in doubt about how to manage your medication or symptoms, consult with your physician or health care team.

If you do not have guidelines from your doctor about managing glucose high and lows, ketones or sick days, it is important to have your doctor provide them for you.

Illness Tips For Type 1 Diabetes

  1. Continue to take your insulin as prescribed.
  2. Check your blood sugar every two to four hours.
  3. If your blood sugar is above 250, test for ketones. You may want to test every time you urinate until your blood sugar comes down.
  4. If your blood glucose is elevated and ketones are present, your insulin dose will need increasing. Follow the guidelines your healthcare team has given you or contact them for advice.
  5. If elevated ketones persist after taking extra insulin, call your doctor.
  6. If you cannot eat your usual diet, substitute with easier to digest foods and liquids with about the same carbohydrate value.
  7. If experiencing nausea, try taking about 15 grams of carbohydrates every hour by eating items such as popsicles or Jell-O (not sugar free), soda or juice (not diet), toast, applesauce, frozen yogurt or a fruit juice bar.
  8. Drink plenty of non-sweetened fluids to stay hydrated; water is best.
  9. If you begin vomiting frequently, you can quickly become dehydrated. Call your doctor for medical advice if this occurs.

Illness Tips For Type 2 Diabetes

  1. Check your blood sugar every four to six hours.
  2. Take your insulin or other medication as prescribed. If your blood sugar remains high for more than a couple days, adjust your medication per your treatment guidelines or consult your health care team about increasing the dose.
  3. Eat your usual diet if possible or substitute it with easier to digest foods and liquids with similar carbohydrate value.
  4. If you're experiencing nausea, try taking carbohydrates by eating items such as popsicles or Jell-O (not sugar free), soda or juice (not diet), toast, applesauce, frozen yogurt or a fruit juice bar.
  5. Drink plenty of non-sweetened fluids to stay hydrated; water is best.
  6. If you begin vomiting frequently, you can quickly become dehydrated. Call your doctor for medical advice if this occurs.

When To Check With the Doctor

When you're ill and have type 1 or 2 diabetes, check with your doctor or health care team when:

  • Blood sugar is above 240 for more than 24 hours.
  • Vomiting or diarrhea persists for more than four hours.
  • Ketones are moderate to large for two or more tests.
  • Fever is 100 degrees Fahrenheit or above.
  • You have severe pain or chest pain.
  • You have difficulty moving your legs or arms.
  • You have difficulty with speech, vision or balance.
  • You are confused or have memory problems.

If your doctor does not get back to you promptly, consider a trip to the emergency room, especially for vomiting and diarrhea.

Sources: Diabetes Research Wellness Foundation, National Library of Medicine

Photo: Pexels

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