Influenza, often called the "flu" is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. Flu spreads mostly by the coughing and sneezing of people who are sick with the flu.
If you have diabetes, you are more likely to get flu-related complications like pneumonia and even be hospitalized or die from the flu than other people. Influenza may also interfere with blood glucose management. People with diabetes should talk with their doctor now to discuss preventing and treating the flu.
But there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
- Get a flu shot! It's the single best way to protect yourself against the flu.
- Take antiviral medications to treat flu (if your doctor recommends them.)
- Take everyday steps to protect your health.
A flu shot is the single best way to protect yourself against the flu. Both the seasonal flu vaccine and vaccine against 2009 H1N1 flu are safe and effective.
This season, there is a seasonal flu vaccine to protect against seasonal flu viruses and a second vaccine to protect against 2009 H1N1 influenza virus (sometimes called "swine flu"). You should get the flu shot vaccines for both seasonal and 2009 H1N1, and not the nasal spray type of vaccine.
Pneumococcal vaccine is also recommended for people with diabetes. One possible complication of flu can be pneumonia. A pneumonia (pneumococcal) vaccine should also be part of a diabetes management plan.
Everyone with diabetes aged 6 months and older should get the 2009 H1N1 flu shot and the seasonal flu shot. Close household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of people with diabetes should also get the vaccines. People can receive both flu shots at the same time.
People with diabetes should get the flu "shot" not the nasal spray type of vaccine. The flu shot is given with a needle, usually in the arm. The vaccine used in the shot is made from killed virus; you cannot catch the flu from the flu vaccine.
For more information about vaccine safety, please see "Vaccine Safety Information". Talk to your health care provider for more information on getting both vaccines.
Take antiviral medications if your doctor recommends them.
Oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) and zanamivir (Relenza®) are antiviral drugs that your doctor may prescribe to fight the flu. They stop flu viruses from making more viruses in your body. If you get sick, antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious health problems that can result from flu illness. They work best when started within 2 days of getting sick, so talk with your health care provider now about what to do if you get a flu-like illness.
Take everyday steps to protect your health.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- Have enough medications and supplies to last for a week in case you have to stay at home.
What to do if you have Diabetes and Symptoms of Flu.
Talk with your doctor now about how to reach him or her quickly by telephone if you think you have the flu.
Symptoms of influenza can include:
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
- body aches
- some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea.
People may be infected with the flu, including 2009 H1N1flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.
Sick Day Guidelines for People with Diabetes
If you have diabetes and are sick with flu-like illness, you should follow these additional steps.
- Call your doctor, who may prescribe medicine to fight the flu.
- Continue to monitor your sugar.
- Be sure to keep taking your diabetes pills or insulin. Don't stop taking them even if you can't eat. Illnesses like the flu can lead to changes in your blood sugars . Your health care provider may adjust your diabetes medications based on your blood sugar records and clinical symptoms.
- If you have flu symptoms, stay home or wherever you are visiting for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (without the use of fever-reducing medicine).