Diabetics Are More Likely To Develop Flu Complications: How To Stay Protected
Flu can make it harder to control your blood sugar levels.

Annual flu shot is highly recommended for diabetes patients. Here’s what diabetics should do if they get flu.

Being diabetic is a risk factor for many other conditions including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and kidney failure. People with diabetes (whether type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, or even gestational diabetes) are also more susceptible to infections, such as influenza (flu), than the non-diabetic population. They are also at increased risk of serious flu complications, leading in hospitalization and even death.

The dangers of flu and diabetes combination: It is estimated that diabetics are six times more likely to be hospitalized due to flu complications than non-diabetics. Even when diabetes is well-managed, flu in diabetics can lead to bronchitis, sinus and ear infections, and pneumonia. Moreover, flu can make it harder to control their blood sugar levels.

The flu may trigger diabetic ketoacidosis (buildup of acids in the blood) and hyperosmolar hyperglycemic nonketotic syndrome (marked by extremely high blood sugar, severe dehydration and confusion). Both are life-threatening emergencies that require immediate medical attention.

So, how can diabetes patients avoid getting the flu and reduce complications.

Influenza vaccination: A safe and simple way to protect against flu

Tips for diabetes management usually include eating a balanced diet, regular exercise, monitoring and controlling blood sugar, and taking medication as prescribed. But what many diabetics may not know is that getting annual flu vaccination is also a critical component of diabetes management.

Health agencies like the American Diabetes Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourage people with diabetes to get vaccinated against flu every year for protection against flu.

Several studies have shown that flu vaccination can reduce the risk of getting sick with flu as well as reduce severity of illness and hospitalizations.

Diabetics are also advised to get pneumococcal vaccines as having flu can increase their risk of getting pneumococcal disease.

What to do if people with diabetes get flu?

It's possible to get flu even after taking precautions, as it is a contagious disease. If you get flu symptoms or suspected flu infection, it is advisable to seek medical care without any further delay. Because antiviral medications are most effective if taken in the first 48 hours of having the flu. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment mean faster recovery and lower chances of flu-related complications.

Watch out for the flu symptoms, which include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.

People with diabetes should also watch out for warning signs of flu-related complications:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Glucose levels higher than 240 mg/dL
  • Fruity breath, dry mouth and skin, frequent urination and confusion (ketoacidosis symptoms)
  • Dizziness, headache, less frequent urination, fatigue (symptoms of dehydration).
  • Severe weakness or unsteadiness
  • Severe muscle pain

Take away: Vaccination is the best protection against flu and related complications. Annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone age 6 months or older, especially for people with diabetes.

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