Diabetes and COVID-19: What you need to know
Courtesy of Aspirus
WISCONSIN – Type 2 Diabetes is a health concern at any time of the year. According to the CDC, risk of early death (pandemic or not) for adults with diabetes is 60% higher than for adults without diabetes. Amid the COVID pandemic, being diabetic can be especially worrisome.
Aspirus wants the community to understand that having Type 2 Diabetes increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19. And the danger goes both ways – being ill may make it harder for diabetics to control their blood sugar.
The best offense is having a great defense.
Follow COVID guidelines closely
You’ve heard it all before:
- Wear a mask anytime you’re in a public place
- Social distance (maintain a distance of six between you and others)
- Avoid indoor gatherings with multiple people
- Wash your hands often
While all of us should follow these important CDC guidelines, diabetics should adhere to these religiously.
If you are invited to a gathering, gently remind the inviter that you feel more comfortable staying home amid the COVID surge; or, if you choose to go, wear a mask and ask others, ahead of time, to be prepared with a mask as well.
Take extra good care of yourself
If your diabetes is well-managed, the risk of serious illness decreases.
“I have advised my patients that obtaining or maintaining good blood sugar is one of the best things they can do to help decrease their risk,” said Jessika Jamgochian, APNP, an Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioner specializing in endocrinology at Aspirus Rhinelander Clinic. “Someone experiencing hyper- or hypo-glycemia may mean it’s time to introduce new medications, or adjust doses of current regimen.”
- Regularly monitor blood sugars
- Continue taking your insulin and medications as directed
- Be sure to have a 30-day supply on-hand.
- If you haven’t already, consider signing up for mail delivery if applicable, or take advantage of drive-up pharmacy services to avoid larger crowds and lines.
- Communicate with your treating provider
- Stay hydrated; drink plenty of water
“If someone does become ill, they must continue to be diligent in checking blood sugars,” Jamgochian says. “For many, insulin needs change during times of illness,” Jamgochian explained. “Drinking adequate amounts of water is also important when ill, as dehydration can worsen hyperglycemia.”
If you have questions about managing your diabetes, be sure to contact the provider treating your diabetes.
Plan ahead and be prepared
If you need to run an errand, be sure to sanitize your hands each time you touch something that the general public would have touched (gas pumps, store kiosks, etc.).
Include extra items in your diabetes kits for your car and at home:
- An extra mask
- Hand sanitizer (for car); extra hand soap (at home)
- Disinfecting wipes
- Favorite go-to snacks for a quick blood-sugar lift, if needed (did someone say juice boxes and crackers?)
- If you use insulin, a supply of glucagon, ketone strips, and rubbing alcohol
If you have COVID symptoms
While anyone with COVID or flu symptoms should contact the Aspirus COVID-19 call center (844-568-0701), those with Diabetes should be sure to contact at the onset of first symptoms, and let the call center contact know that you are diabetic at the time of the call.
Unfortunately, COVID presents itself in many different symptoms, including:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- Loss of taste or smell
- Sore throat
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
The call center staff will tell you what to do next – for example, where and how to get tested.
Is it an emergency?
According to CDC, you should go to the emergency room if:
- You are having trouble breathing.
- You have moderate to high ketone levels in your urine.
- You cannot keep liquids down for more than four hours.
- You lose 5 pounds or more while sick.
- Your blood sugar is lower than 60 mg/dL.
- You are too sick to eat normally and cannot keep food down for more than 24 hours.
- You are vomiting or have severe diarrhea for more than six hours.
- Your temperature is above 101 degrees for 24 hours.
- You feel sleepy or cannot think clearly. If this is the case, call 911 or ask someone else to drive you.
To learn more about diabetes care at Aspirus, visit www.aspirus.org/diabetes-care. For more information about COVID, visit Aspirus’ online Coronavirus (COVID) Resource Center at www.aspirus.org/coronavirus-covid19.