As the weather gets colder it seems the potential to get colds and flu increase. Getting a cold or flu can make it harder to manage diabetes. Prevention is the best cure when it comes to facing the inevitable winter cold and flu season.

  1. Colds and especially the flu can have a major impact on diabetes. Vomiting, nausea and diarrhea can cause severe dehydration and make your diabetes quickly become out of control. Infections can also make blood sugar rise. A poor appetite may make blood sugar levels too low. OTC remedies may contain sugar, which boosts blood sugar levels. The stress of a cold or flu causes the body to form ketones from fat breakdown since your body does not have enough insulin to properly use glucose as an energy source. It is important to take steps to avoid getting a cold or flu.
  2. Talk to your doctor about getting an annual flu shot. September is typically the best month to do it because a flu shot protects you for around six months. It is still worthwhile to get a flu shot thru February. People with diabetes are also three times more susceptible to developing serious health problems such as pneumonia if they have the flu. Discuss the pneumonia shot with your doctor, which can also protect you against meningitis and blood infections. In case you get sick, ask your doctor to recommend OTC remedies that are safe and won’t make your blood sugar or blood pressure fluctuate.
  3. Be prepared for sickness by having diabetes supplies on hand before it happens. Keep blood sugar testing supplies readily available and test for ketones if your blood sugar rises above 240 mg/dL. Have an extra supply of insulin and diabetes medications on hand. Keep certain foods in your cupboard such as clear soup, ice pops, apple juice, applesauce and diabetes-friendly carbohydrates such as whole grain crackers or bread.
  4. Keep the term H.E.A.L. in mind to prevent colds and flu. The letters represent healthy habits, environment, alternatives and lifestyle. When you are mindful of your behavior and the world around you, it is easier to prevent getting sick.
  5. Wash your hands after using the bathroom and before cooking and eating. Always wash your hands after sneezing or coughing. Use a mild soap and suds up your hands for a minimum of 15 seconds. If you have no soap and water available, use an antibacterial hand gel or disposable alcohol wipes. Use paper towels in the bathroom rather than a community towel.
  6. Keep germs away from points of entry in your body. Don’t rub your eyes; bite your nails or touch your nose and mouth. Use a tissue to clean your eyes, nose and mouth then cleanse your hands. Throw away used tissues immediately.
  7. Maintain a clean home and office space. Cold viruses live on unexpected areas such as light switches, remote controls, door handles, computer key boards and telephones. Use a disinfectant spray or bleach to effectively cleanse your environment. Do not share personal items such as pillows or towels.
  8. Add healthy elements to your daily diet to help ward off the possibility of colds and flu. Helpful natural additions include garlic and ginseng, which can be added to your daily diet. Have zinc tablets or lozenges on hand which can shorten a cold. You can also take supplements that contain herbs and spices which may reduce cold symptoms.
  9. Have a healthy lifestyle. Get plenty of sleep, never skip meals and exercise every day to boost well-being and reduce stress. Avoid stressful situations that can compromise your immune system. Yoga and tai chi are ways to exercise and reduce stress. Include some daily meditation.
  10. Avoid catching a chill which may lower your resistance. Dress warmly based on the weather conditions. If you keep the heat low at home, wear layered clothing or snuggle up under a blanket.
  11. Steer clear of sick people. If your spouse or children have a cold or flu, sleep in a separate room. Encourage everyone to maintain a healthy environment so germs are not spread that can re-infect sick family members.

As mom used to say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. These few simple tips can help you avoid colds and flu during the chilly weather. Maintain the best possible health at all times for effective diabetes self-management.