How to Handle Sick Days

It’s that time of year again, when people start sniffling and coughing around the office.  Statistics say that on average a person will get two to four colds per year.   It is likely that all of us will come down with some type of illness this winter, whether it is a cold or the flu or a stomach bug.   Even if you can’t prevent every illness, there are steps you can take to give yourself the best chance of beating the odds and staying in the pink.

To Prevent Colds and the Flu

Wash your hands often- this is the single, most effective way to avoid spreading or catching anything.  Do this throughout the day but especially before eating.  Tried to avoid touching your face and eye area. But be careful not to overwash to the point where your hands start cracking! If your hands do dry out, use a good moisturizer.

Get plenty of rest- this is a hard one for a lot of people-work and family responsibilities often leave us little time for ourselves.  However, getting in those eight hours of sleep is important. Short sleep times over the long haul put you at risk for not only picking up the random cold, but also for long-term chronic disease such as heart disease.   Remember if you are sick, you can’t take care of the people who depend on you.

Don’t forget to get your flu shot.  People with diabetes are at increased risk of getting secondary infections such as pneumonia.   If you are allergic to eggs, skip the shot diabetes.

If you are coming close to 65 look into getting the pneumonia vaccine (Pneumovax). One should be given before you turn 65 and a second dose afterward.

Be prepared for the worst!  It is miserable being sick, but it is even more miserable if you don’t have the supplies you need and you have to leave your sick bed to face the winter weather to get them. So do your planning beforehand.

Talk with your healthcare provider or diabetes educator about how to prepare for sick days. Take the following steps:

-Check your medicines to be sure they have not expired

-Find out about adjusting your medicines if your blood glucose goes too high

-Find out if you need to check for ketones

-Know when to call your healthcare provider

-Set up a sick day basket filled with the following: (refrigerate the supplies that need it)

  • Sugar-free and regular gelatin and popsicles
  • Broth
  • Saltine crackers
  • Tea
  • Ginger ale (sugar-free and regular )
  • Fruit juice and applesauce
  • Sherbet
  • Digital thermometer
  • Medicines to relieve symptoms of cold, flu, pain, fever or diarrhea
  • Sugar-free cough drops and cough syrup
  • Ketone strips (if needed)
  • Telephone numbers for healthcare provider

Even though you prepared—you washed your hands until the skin started cracking (not a good idea by the way) and you slumbered your full eight hours of zzzz every night—it still happened. You got sick. You have the tissue box and a cup of tea by your side.  Now what?

On days when you are sick, your blood glucose level can go higher even if you are eating less than usual. Get plenty of rest and follow these tips:

-Always take your usual diabetes medicine.

-Even if you are not able to eat your usual meals, take your insulin and/ or diabetes pills.  If your blood glucose is over 250 for two readings in a row, call your healthcare provider because you may need more medicine.

-Call your provider if you are vomiting and having trouble taking your diabetes pills.

-Check for ketones if you have type 1 diabetes.

-Ask your provider if you need to check your urine for ketones when your blood glucose is over 250. Some people with type 2 diabetes may need to check for ketones as well.

-Drink plenty of fluids.

-Drink about one cup of sugar-free, fluids every hour while you are awake to prevent dehydration. If you can’t eat solid food, alternate sugar-free fluids one hour with fluids that have sugar the next.

-Call your healthcare provider if you:

  • Have nausea or diarrhea that lasts for more than one day
  • Are vomiting and unable to keep fluids down
  • Have blood glucose levels above 250 for more than two readings
  • Have low blood glucose levels
  • Have chest pain, sudden pain or shortness of breath
  • Are unsure what to do


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