Dealing With Cold and Flu Season With Diabetes

Flu season is here and with it comes the dreary prospect of bed bound days and tissue-ridden floors. With vaccination and good hand washing technique, there are ways to reduce the risk of falling prey to colds or flus. However, should you find yourself developing something regardless, what precautions should you take? As a diabetic, you are more at risk for dangerous complications than people without diabetes, and should be more careful when dealing with any illness. Some complications that diabetics are at risk for include:


The flu can lead to chest infections that could potentially develop into more serious diseases such as pneumonia. Some symptoms of pneumonia include:

  • Coughing with phlegm that does not improve
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain when breathing or coughing


Diabetic ketoacidosis occurs when the body produces a high level of ketones, a blood acid that results from the body breaking down fat for fuel. This is a serious complication that diabetics are specifically at risk for because it is caused when the body cannot produce enough insulin. Recognizing the signs is important so that a medical expert can be contacted immediately. Some symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis include:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fruity-scented breath
  • Confusion

Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic State (HHS)

HHS (previously called Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic Nonketotic Syndrome or HHNS) is a life-threatening metabolic emergency. It involves extremely high glucose levels without the presence of ketones. There is often severe dehydration and decreased consciousness. It is more commonly found in type 2 diabetes patients who have not yet been diagnosed or are not properly treating themselves for their diabetes. Symptoms of HHS include:

  • Blood sugar level of 600mg/dL or higher
  • Excessive thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased Urination
  • Warm, dry skin
  • Fever
  • Drowsiness and confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Vision loss
  • Convulsions
  • Coma


You should contact your doctor if you experience any of the symptoms listed above or if you find it hard to breathe, can’t keep down solids or liquids, your blood sugar is over 180mg/dL or under 17mg/dL, your temperature is over 101 degrees Fahrenheit, or you experience vomiting or diarrhea. Flu season is no fun for anybody, and if you are diabetic it is especially dangerous. Your glucose levels may rise if you are infected and naturally a doctor should be contacted for an adjustment of your insulin intake.

A common problem for diabetic people is over-the-counter medicine. Some common flu medication like ibuprofen contains anti-inflammatory drugs that are not recommended for diabetics as they increase their risk for heart disease and stroke. Most lozenges and cough syrups contain a great deal of sugar. Ask your doctor or a pharmacist to recommend over-the-counter drugs that are safe for you and contain low sugar. Oral cold and flu pills are often a better choice than syrup because they lack the carbohydrates.

There are also ways to combat the flu on your own while lying sick in bed. The first, and arguably most essential, piece of advice is that lots of sleep and rest is important for your body to recuperate. Sure, everybody has been told this growing up, but a reminder never hurts. Medical professionals recommend you consume 1 cup of liquid every hour, whether that liquid is water or soup broth. In addition to this you should try to eat about 35-50 grams of carbohydrates every 3 to 4 hours. Maintaining healthy conditions for your body while it fights off the disease will shorten your sentence of being confined to the bed.