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Diabetes and the flu season

Seasonal influenza, (“the flu”), occurs mainly during winter, from October to March. Symptoms may include fever, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Mild symptoms are often treated successfully at home, with most people recovering within a week.

Worsening of flu symptoms indicate the need to seek immediate medical care. These symptoms may include:

· Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

· Persistent pain/ pressure in the chest area

· Severe muscle pain, weakness or unsteadiness

· Fever or cough that does not improve (persistent fevers above 101F)

· Inability to hold liquids down (due to vomiting) for more than 4 hours

· Blood sugar levels below 60mg/dl

· Unintentional weight loss of 5 pounds or more

· Worsening of any preexisting chronic medical conditions

Antiviral drugs for influenza can reduce severe complications and deaths although influenza viruses can develop resistance to the drugs. These drugs need to be administered early (within 48 hours of onset of symptoms). Antibiotics are not effective against influenza viruses.

Persons with diabetes should also be prepared for these possible “sick days” ahead of time. Preplanning can reduce the risk of serious illness and hospitalization. Optimal hydration and nutrition are important during this challenging time.

Check your blood sugar levels every four hours. Make sure you have insulin, any other diabetes medicines, in adequate amounts for 1-2 weeks while you recover.

· Drink extra calorie free liquids to stay hydrated

· Weigh yourself daily (to avoid unintentional weight loss)

· Check your temperature and treat any fevers as recommended by your physician (stock up on pain relievers, a thermometer, antacids and medications to control diarrhea)

· Eat small meals routinely to maintain nutrition and blood sugar levels (stock up on canned soups, instant cereals, sports drinks, crackers, and gelatins)

In addition to getting a flu vaccine this season, people with diabetes should take the same precautions that the CDC recommends for everyone during the current coronavirus pandemic: avoiding large crowds through social distancing, staying home when you feel sick, frequent handwashing, and wearing a face mask.

Getting a flu shot this year is particularly important because, like the coronavirus (COVID-19), influenza is also a respiratory virus. As a society, we need to do everything we can to possibly do to minimize having two respiratory outbreaks circulating simultaneously in our populations.



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