Even though I love winter, I dread cold and flu season, arming myself with big and small bottles of hand sanitizer and lots of vitamin C. Usually, I stay pretty healthy, only affected by one or two minor colds. Even though I did everything I could to stay healthy while living in the dorm, this year was a different story. I ended up being sick for almost four weeks - with a bad cold, a 24 hour stomach bug, and finally a sinus infection.
No one likes to be sick. However, for people with diabetes, fighting any kind of bug can be especially hard. Usually, infection or illnesses cause blood sugars to be elevated, due to the increased amount of stress on the body. I find that even in the 24 hours before I feel any symptoms, my blood sugar spikes mysteriously. Often, this is my warning that I am about to get sick. During illness, blood sugar levels can stay elevated as the body fights the pathogen. Usually, my blood sugar stabilizes around the same time that I start to feel better.
First, I came down with a bad cold. Although I was not bedridden, I felt achy and tired, my head and throat hurt, and I was congested. The most frustrating part was managing my blood sugar. For five days, I tested around fifteen times a day and took about 50% more insulin than usual, yet it seemed that my blood sugar was "locked" above 200. Even after changing my pump infusion set twice and continuing to increase my corrections, I had little luck. Hydration is extremely important both when sick and when hyperglycemic, so I made an effort to drink plenty of water and tea.
After six days, my blood sugar finally normalized and my symptoms started to disappear. However, two days later, I came down with a violent 24 hour stomach virus that was spreading through the dorms. The University health services team stated that it was one of the most violent and widespread outbreaks of "viral gastroenteritis" they have ever seen, marked by extreme vomiting, dizziness, and fever.
I was nervous to manage my blood sugar and insulin on my own, but I spoke to my parents frequently over the course of the night. Unlike the cold, I had the opposite problem with my blood sugar - it was teetering on the edge of being too low. Although I couldn't eat anything, I knew that I had to continue taking insulin in order to avoid keytones. I set a temporary basal rate on my insulin pump and sipped on some regular soda to stabilize my blood sugar. I tested my blood sugar frequently and updated my roommate and friend, explaining to them the danger of the situation.
As soon as I could, I started to replenish fluids and electrolytes. Most blood sugar complications are exacerbated by dehydration, so I wanted to reduce the chances of any diabetes complications making me sicker. I kept a close eye on my blood sugar for the following day, continuing to run a full basal rate despite my decreased food intake.