Woman managing diabetes during illness

Managing Diabetes During Illness: A Guide for the Cold and Flu Season

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Being sick puts additional stress on your body. To fight illness and combat this stress, your body releases extra stress hormones. This is true for anyone—but if you’re living with diabetes, these hormonal changes can make it difficult to keep blood glucose levels in your target range.

Managing diabetes during illness can be challenging and stressful. Knowing what to do and what to watch out for when illness strikes can give you the tools and confidence you need to effectively manage your diabetes and reduce the risk of complications.

Managing Diabetes During Illness

During a period of illness, it’s important to keep a close eye on your diabetes management. In general, it is recommended that you follow these practices:

  • Continue taking your diabetes medications and insulin
  • Test your blood glucose levels regularly
  • Drink extra calorie-free fluids to prevent dehydration
  • Try to eat as you normally would
  • Weigh yourself daily (weight loss while eating normally can be a sign of high blood glucose)
  • Check your temperature every morning and evening (fever can be a sign of infection)

While these are good general guidelines, it’s important to follow a personalized illness plan created by your healthcare team.

Make a Plan With Your Healthcare Team

A plan is essential for managing diabetes during illness. Ideally, you should create this plan with your healthcare team before you get sick. Your healthcare provider can provide guidance on the following:

  • What to eat and drink during your illness
  • How often to check your blood glucose levels
  • How to adjust diabetes medications or insulin (if needed)
  • How often to check for ketones (if needed)
  • When to call your doctor
  • What sorts of over-the-counter medications you can take for your illness

Be sure to take detailed notes about the plan when you create it with your healthcare team. Keep your notes readily available so you can refer to them when you’re sick.

Create a Diabetes Sick-Day Kit

Of course, no one plans to get sick. But if you do, it’s important to have everything you need to effectively manage your diabetes. If you feel a cold or other bug coming on, you can proactively create a diabetes sick-day kit. Depending on your typical diabetes management needs, it may include the following:


Sick Day Items to Include

Diabetes Supplies
  • A blood glucose monitor (BGM)
  • Extra batteries for your BGM
  • Extra supplies for your insulin pump and/or continuous glucose monitor
  • At least a week’s worth of your diabetes medication (i.e., oral medication or insulin)
  • Glucose tablets
  • Ketone test strips
Food to Prevent Lows
  • Juice
  • Popsicles or sherbet 
  • Regular soda
  • Sports drinks
  • Jell-O
  • Saltines
  • Plain toast
  • Soup or broth
Illness Supplies
  • Thermometer 
  • Cold and flu medicines
  • Antacids
  • Antidiarrheal medicines
  • Painkillers 
Note: All over-the-counter medicines must be approved by your healthcare team. Some medicines may affect diabetes-related medications or cause your blood glucose levels to rise.
Emergency Lists and Supplies
  • List of emergency contacts, such as members of your healthcare team, friends, and family
  • List of medications you’re taking
  • Copy of your health insurance information
  • Medical ID 

Know the Signs of Diabetic Ketoacidosis 

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a serious diabetes-related complication that can happen when your body produces too many ketones. If your body doesn’t have enough insulin, it begins breaking down fat, which in turn produces ketones. Know the signs of DKA while managing diabetes during illness. Early symptoms often include dry mouth or excessive thirst and frequent urination. The following are other potential symptoms of untreated DKA:

  • Dry or flushed skin
  • Rapid breathing 
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Headache
  • Fruity-smelling breath
  • Nausea or vomiting

DKA is a serious, life-threatening condition. If ketones are high or you experience any of these symptoms, the American Diabetes Association recommends you contact your doctor immediately.

Take Notes on Your Illness and Symptoms

Your doctor may have questions about your illness and associated symptoms. Consider writing down your symptoms, medicines you’ve taken (and doses), what you’ve been eating and drinking, and whether you’ve lost weight or had a fever. You can also include a log of your blood glucose and ketone levels.

Keep a Close Eye on Your Blood Glucose

While you’re sick, you may need to check your blood glucose levels more frequently than you normally would. You also may have a hard time eating, especially if you have an upset stomach or diarrhea or are vomiting. Stress hormones released by the body during illness, combined with changes in eating and drinking habits, can cause your blood glucose levels to behave differently than you’re used to.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends testing your blood glucose levels every four hours and tracking results. However, testing frequency can vary. Make sure you’re testing your blood glucose levels according to the illness plan created with the guidance of your healthcare team.

Simplify Your Sick-Day Routine With POGO Automatic®

Checking your blood glucose levels can already feel like a hassle, and when you’re sick, it can feel like an even greater burden—but making sure your blood glucose levels stay within your target range is crucial not only for diabetes management but also for helping your body deal with illness.

Finding an easier way to check your blood glucose can help you keep a close eye on your blood glucose levels and make managing diabetes during illness easier. An automatic blood glucose monitor (ABGM), such as the POGO Automatic Monitor, can simplify your sick-day routine by making it easier to test as frequently as you should.

POGO Automatic allows you to check your blood glucose in a single step. Just load the 10-test cartridge into the monitor, and you’re good to go. To check your blood glucose, turn the monitor on and place your finger on the test port. The POGO Automatic Monitoring System will automatically lance, collect blood, and give you accurate results quickly.

The POGO Automatic Monitor syncs with the Patterns® for POGO Automatic app via Bluetooth to ensure that you have your results at your fingertips anytime. Patterns lets you monitor blood glucose trends and share these important insights with your healthcare team. If you have a hard time remembering to test when you’re sick, you can set up reminders using Patterns. In the event of a low or high blood glucose emergency, Patterns will automatically send you alerts. You can also set up emergency contacts if you’d like them to be notified too.

Ready to Have Freedom at Your Fingertip?

POGO Automatic is the only FDA-cleared blood glucose monitor that lances and collects blood automatically, in one simple step, with its 10-test cartridge technology, eliminating the need to carry separate lancets and test strips. Reach out today to learn more about how you can check your blood glucose without interrupting your day.

 Jaclyn Owens, product director specializing in diabetes management tools

Jaclyn Owens

Jaclyn Owens is a product director specializing in diabetes management tools. She is committed to using technology to empower people with diabetes and help them take control of their health.

All content on this website is for educational purposes only and does not replace the guidance of your healthcare practitioner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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