How to Handle a Cold or Flu — With Diabetes
You’re new to diabetes, but you feel you’re keeping it under control. Then, bam! You get sick.
Diabetes can be tricky when you’re under the weather. But if you let your blood sugar get out of whack, you’ll feel worse.
Working closely with your doctor, you can help manage your diabetes by focusing on six key changes in your daily life.
1. Eat healthy. Eating well is crucial when you have diabetes, because what you eat affects your blood sugar. No foods are strictly off-limits. Focus on eating only as much as your body needs. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Choose nonfat dairy and lean meats. Limit foods that are high in sugar and fat. Remember that carbohydrates turn into sugar, so watch…
If you come down with a cold, fever, or flu this winter, you’ll be back on your feet sooner with these simple guidelines.
Do I keep taking my medicine? “The biggest mistake people with diabetes make when they’re sick is that they think they don’t have to take their medicine because they’re not eating as much,” says Elaine Sullivan, RN, a certified diabetes educator at Joslin Diabetes Center.
It’s true that eating less can lower your blood sugar. But lack of physical activity and sickness itself can raise it. So keep taking your meds while you’re fighting off a cold or the flu.
What should I eat? It’s best to continue your meals as usual. But if you can’t eat much, try to get at least 45 to 50 grams of carbohydrate every 3 to 4 hours. Soup, soda crackers, Popsicles, and gelatin might be easier to keep down than your usual staples.
What should I drink? Even a meager diet of soup and crackers might not prevent sick-day sugar spikes. Your body gets rid of extra sugar through your urine, and you can help the process along by drinking plenty of fluids. You could be pretty thirsty anyway: High blood sugar can dehydrate you.
Drink about 8 ounces of zero-calorie fluid every hour — unless you can’t keep food down. “If you can’t eat, have no-calorie beverages one hour, then carb-containing fluids the next,” Sullivan says. “That could be 8 ounces of juice or regular soda.”
Liquids that contain minerals — like broth or sports drinks — can help keep you hydrated.
Can I take cough or cold medicine? Take sugar-free medicine if you can. Syrups are more likely than pills to have sugar. But if you need syrup to soothe your throat, go ahead. “The quantity of sugar you’re getting from a tablespoon of cough medicine is not enough to really make a difference,” Sullivan says.