People with diabetes are at greater risk of developing infections, in particular respiratory infections such as influenza and pneumonia.

Although there is not enough information available to know if a person with diabetes is more at risk of getting infected by COVID-19, evidence suggests that someone with diabetes are at greater risk of developing complications from the virus. Data from Wuhan, China showed that 42.3% of fatalities due to COVID-19 were people with diabetes.

During the Pandemic Influenza A 2009 (H1N1), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-related coronavirus (MERSCoV) diabetes was also a risk factor for mortality.

I have diabetes, what can I do to protect myself?

Besides following all the preventive measures set up by the government of your country of residence; there are some extra steps that you should take.

  1. Keep your blood sugar levels controlled. According to the American Diabetes Association, the risk of having complications from COVID-19 are lower if you have your blood sugar levels controlled. Good glycemic control may lessen chances of superadded bacterial pneumonia as well. You can manage your blood sugar levels by:
    • Controlling your diet
    • Self-monitoring your blood sugar levels
    • Exercise – move as much as possible. Further down we will explain more on this topic.
    • Take your medication regularly at the timing recommended by your doctor and pharmacist
  1. In an article published recently at Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews, Gupta and her team recommend people with diabetes to ensure good nutrient and protein status. Ask a dietitian for a nutritional assessment of your diet to check for mineral and vitamin deficiency, they will be able to support you in making the necessary change to improve them.
  2. Exercising will not only control your blood sugar levels but also build your immunity. During these times, try to do most of them in your house, or follow government advice when exercising outside. Some exercises that you can do at home include rope jumping, stationary running/jogging and jumping jacks. Always check with your doctor which exercises are suitable for you.
  3. Get vaccinated for influenza and pneumonia infection. Talk with your doctor about it.

If you are feeling unwell you should:

  1. Call your doctor or get advice from doctors via video consultation using the MyDoc app. MyDoc has a special Covid-19 public service clinic available to everyone at cureyourfear.org
  2. Drink plenty of fluids. If you find it difficult to drink large amounts of water, have small sips every 15 minutes throughout the day to avoid dehydration.
  3. Check your blood sugar levels more frequently. (here’s how)
    1. If your blood sugar levels (BSL) are below 70mg/dl, have 15 grams of simple carbohydrates and re-check your BSL 15 minutes later. If your BSL remains low, repeat the same process. Once your levels are stabilised have a proper meal with some complex carbohydrates.
    2. People sick with a virus infection are at higher risk of diabetic ketoacidosis. If your blood sugar levels register levels higher than 240mg/dl twice, call your doctor and check for ketones.
    3. If you are using a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) sensors, note that some are influenced by some medication. Check with finger sticks to ensure accuracy.
  4. Wash your hands and clean your injection/infusion and finger-stick sites with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.

During these challenging times, take extra measures to put distance between yourself and other people to further reduce your risk of being exposed to this new virus. Stay home as much as possible!

MyDoc has a team of doctors and dietitians ready to support you to help you keep your diabetes under control. Contact us for more information.

Stay at home and be safe
Claudia Correia
Dietitian
MyDoc Healthcare team

References:
American Diabetes Association. (2020, 04). Diabetes and Coronavirus. Retrieved from American Diabetes Association: https://www.diabetes.org/coronavirus-covid-19
Gupta, R., Ghosh, A., Singh, A. K., & Misra, A. (2020). Clinical considerations for patients with diabetes in times of COVID-19 epidemic. Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews, 14(3), 211-212. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsx.2020.03.002.

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