By: Portia Wofford
Physicians, scientists, and researchers are still learning about COVID-19 and its effects on the body. As they study the impact coronavirus has on different illnesses and disease processes, diabetes is getting attention. The CDC notes that having Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes increases your risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Because people with diabetes are at an increased risk for developing infections, they should take precautions to protect themselves against COVID-19.
Complications from diabetes related to COVID-19
Currently, there isn’t enough research or evidence to prove that diabetics are at an increased risk for COVID-19. However, if your diabetes isn’t well-controlled, you could have worse complications if you contract coronavirus. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), when diabetics don’t manage their diabetes and blood sugars, they are at risk for diabetes- related complications. Additionally, other conditions —such as heart or lung disease — and diabetes worsens the chance of you getting sick from COVID-19 because your body’s immune system is compromised. A recent study showed patients with COVID-19 and diabetes who had high blood sugars were more likely to have longer hospital stays.
If you do get COVID-19, the virus could put you at higher risk for sepsis and diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Sepsis is a complication of COVID-19, which causes widespread inflammation throughout your body and can shut down organs. DKA happens when high levels of acid (ketones) are in your blood.
- It’s hard to manage your fluid and electrolytes level in DKA.
- DKA makes it difficult to maintain your fluid and electrolyte levels.
- This makes treating sepsis hard because DKA causes you to lose electrolytes.
In addition to diabetes-related complications, diabetics also have a risk of developing other complications of COVID-19, such as pneumonia, organ failure, and kidney injury.
Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and Coronavirus
According to the CDC, people at any age with Type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Based on the CDC, the ADA warns that people with Type 1 or gestational diabetes might also be at an increased risk. The ADA states it’s important for any person with either type of diabetes to manage their diabetes. Those who already have diabetes-related health problems are likely to have worse outcomes if they contract COVID-19 than diabetics who are otherwise healthy.
Tips to avoid infection
- Stay home as much as possible
- Monitor your blood sugar regularly. Maintaining optimal blood glucose, as determined by your healthcare team, is important in preventing severe complications to COVID-19.
- Wash your hands
- Avoid sick people
- Wear a mask
- Check-in with your doctors, via telehealth. Most providers schedule telehealth visits—rather than in-person visits. Ask your provider if he or she offers this service.
- Exercise. Try exercising at home. Walk around your neighborhood, but be sure to social distance. Right now, there are exercises and workout plans online where you can follow along.
- Wash your hands. Wash your hand with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Keep alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you as well.
- Wear a mask and social distance. CDC recommends at least 6 feet apart.
- Eat a healthy diet:
- Eat foods low in sugar
- Limit foods high in sugar, carbohydrates, and fat
- Try lean proteins instead of fried foods
- Don’t forget your green, leafy vegetables
If your glucose readings change because of changes in your diet and activity level, speak with your healthcare team before making any adjustments to your insulin or other medications.
Your COVID-19 diabetes plan
Because of social distancing and shelter-in-place rules, it may be harder for you to get your supplies.
Stock up on enough supplies to last you for a couple of weeks, in case you get quarantined:
- Healthy food
- Simple carbs like honey, fruit juice, or hard candies in case your blood sugar dips
- Make sure you have a 30 day supply of insulin and other medicine
- Extra strips and batteries for your glucometer
- Extra glucagon and ketone strips
- Diabetes alert bracelet or necklace
Keep your home health team updated on your plans, and if you notice any COVID-19 symptoms be sure to alert your home health nurse.
What to do if you get sick
Be sure you know the signs and symptoms of COVID-19:
- Cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing
- New loss of taste or smell
- Fever or chills
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Muscle or body aches
Notify your Hospice of the Midwest nurse , with your most recent blood glucose readings, if you have any of these symptoms. Symptoms can range from mild to severe illness, and appear 2-14 days after exposure to COVID-19.
Portia Wofford is an award-winning nurse, writer, and digital marketer. After dedicating her nursing career to creating content and solutions for employers that affected patient outcomes, these days Portia empowers health related businesses to grow their communities through engaging content that connects and converts. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter for her latest.