Adapting to Diabetes - Planning ahead for sick days
Naturally, some days are going to be better than others, and we all have times where we feel under the weather. So how can you be prepared to handle things when you are ill or experience blood sugar highs and lows that leave you feeling unwell? Here are a few tips…
Write out a sick-day plan
Having a plan on paper will make it easier to manage your diabetes when you have a fever, experience nausea or have body aches. When you are sick, your body is stressed, which can cause your blood sugar to fluctuate. A sick day plan will help you keep your blood sugar levels as close to target as you can1.
Your healthcare professional can help you, but here are a few tips to consider when developing your sick-day plan:
- Having sick day foods on-hand will help you eat, even if you can’t keep food down. These include foods such as low-salt canned soups, sugary drinks, sweets, and sweetened tea, which can deliver the carbohydrates you need without upsetting your stomach.
- Keep taking your insulin or diabetes medication as prescribed. Although some medicines may need to be reduced or stopped if you are unwell, so be sure to talk to your GP or healthcare team to get advice tailored to you1.
- Drink lots of caffeine-free liquids to keep hydrated. If you are nauseated, take small sips that will stay down.
- Check and record your blood sugar regularly. It is recommended to check at least every four hours, even during the night1.
- If you have type 1 diabetes, it is recommended that you check for ketones, and contact your diabetes team if you detect ketones1.
- Know when to call the doctor. Call if you have been sick for more than 24 hours, if you cannot keep medication or food down or if your ketone test reads moderate or high. List your doctor’s phone number on your plan.
Have a plan for when your blood sugar drops
Hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar, is the most common short-term complication of insulin therapy2. If you are on insulin or other medication that can cause hypos you need to be prepared and know how to deal with low blood sugar. If you’re not sure whether this applies to you, ask your healthcare professional.
- Know your own safe blood glucose ranges and trust your body.
- Be aware of the common symptoms of low blood sugar, as well as those that are unique to you.
- If you think you have low blood sugar, check your blood sugar level.
- If your blood sugar level is below your normal range, eat or drink 15-20g fast-acting carbohydrates, which could include sweets, glucose or dextrose tablets or a sugary drink3.
- After a hypo, try to eat 15-20g of slower-acting carbohydrates, which could include a sandwich, piece of fruit or bowl of cereal3.
Expect your blood sugar to be high occasionally
Hyperglycaemia, or high blood sugar, can occur as a result of missing medications, reduced exercise, eating too much, stress or illness4. If you have symptoms of hyperglycaemia, follow the advice of your healthcare team, or, if you are unsure what to do, contact your healthcare team for advice4.
If your blood sugar rises too high or is high for a longer period of time, Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) can occur. If you think you are at risk of DKA, contact your healthcare professional immediately.
Everyone can expect to have a sick day now and again. Taking an hour to plan for those days will make them much easier to deal with when they arrive.
1. Diabetes UK. Diabetes when you’re unwell [Online]. Available at: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/life-with-diabetes/illness. (Accessed 25th March 2022).
2. Diabetes UK. What is a hypo? [Online]. Available at: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/complications/hypos#sympto.... (Accessed 25th March 2022).
3. Diabetes UK. Having a hypo [Online]. Available at: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/Guide-to-diabetes/Complications/Hypos/Having... (Accessed 25th March 2022).
4. NHS (2018). Hyperglycaemia (high blood sugar) [Online]. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-blood-sugar-hyperglycaemia/ (Accessed 25th March 2022).
The views expressed in the Accu-Chek blog are not necessarily those of Roche Diabetes Care Limited. The content is provided for general information only. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely – you must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content. Although we make reasonable efforts to ensure that the content is up to date, we make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content is accurate, complete or up-to-date.