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Diabetes and coronavirus

Last updated: 8 May 2020 at 4.30pm

It is unclear if people with diabetes are at increased risk of getting coronavirus, but if you get infected you are more at risk of serious complications.

Follow our advice on protecting yourself and others.

If you are over 70, you are considered to be extremely vulnerable and should follow our advice on cocooning.

If you're working, check with your employer to make sure that safe work practices are in place. You can continue to work unless your treating specialist recommends otherwise.

The Citizens Information website has more information on Your employment rights during COVID-19 restrictions

Avoid unnecessary visits to:

  • hospitals
  • pharmacies
  • other healthcare facilities

Try to make contact by phone.

Be prepared in case you get ill

Know the symptoms of coronavirus.

Know your Eircode and the phone numbers of your GP or diabetes specialist and pharmacy.

Have the phone number of a family member, friend or carer who could support you if you are sick.

You should have:

  • a thermometer to check your temperature. A high temperature is 38 degrees Celsius or above
  • an up to date list of your medications and the usual dose
  • a record of your recent blood glucose readings if you usually monitor them
  • at least 2 weeks supply of your medications and other diabetes supplies
  • easy to swallow carbohydrate foods in case of illness. For example, non-diet minerals, rice pudding, soup, jelly, ice-cream,
  • quick acting carbohydrate, for example: glucose tablets, non diet sugary drinks, jelly babies, fruit juice or glucose gels in case you may need to treat low blood sugars
  • a copy of your ‘Sick Day Rules’ from your diabetes centre or GP
  • if you use an insulin pump – make sure you have supplies of insulin in pen form and information on how to convert back to multiple daily injections in case of a pump failure.

Download My medicines list (PDF 253KB 2 pages) to list all the medicines and supplements you take.

If you are sick follow the sick day rules given to you by your diabetes team.

Advice for looking after your diabetes when you are ill includes:

Check your blood glucose levels

If you use a blood glucose meter, test your blood glucose level more often, for example 2 to 4 hours and record the results. You may need to check your blood glucose during the night.

If you do not have a blood glucose meter, watch out for symptoms of high blood glucose levels.

These include:

  • excessive thirst
  • tiredness
  • dry mouth
  • peeing more often or at night

Phone your GP if you notice persistent symptoms.

Keep taking your insulin and/or diabetes medicines

You may need to alter your insulin and diabetes medicine dose. This will depend on your blood glucose levels, especially if you have a fever or are unable to eat. Some diabetes tablets may need to be stopped while you are ill. Speak with your GP or nurse before you make any adjustments.

Stay hydrated

Drink at least 2 litres of fluids such as water and sugar-free drinks throughout the day or 100mls per hour. This is to prevent dehydration.

Eating

If you are unable to eat as normal, take small amounts of food at regular intervals throughout the day.

If you have a poor appetite you may need to take regular sips of non diet sugary drinks such as fruit juice or lemonade. This is very important if you are taking insulin or some diabetes medicines as these can cause low blood glucose or hypoglycaemia (below 4mmol/l).

Ketones

If you have been taught to test ketones check the levels and follow the recommended guidelines. If your ketone level is above 0.6mmol/L take action.

Seek medical help if:

  • Your blood glucose stays over 13mmol/L or you have persistent symptoms of high blood glucose. This could be excessive thirst, increased need to pee (urinate) or dehydration
  • Your blood ketone levels stay high or over 1.5mmol/L
  • Your blood glucose readings stay low - below 4mmol/L
  • Your temperature remains high
  • You experience symptoms of shortness of breath, confusion, pain, cramps or drowsiness.
  • You are unable to eat
  • You are vomiting or unable to keep down fluids
  • You have persistent diarrhoea or vomiting

If your symptoms get worse it is really important that you seek help from your GP or diabetes care team.

Professor Sean Dinneen, Consultant endocrinologist, discusses the risks of coronavirus for people with diabetes.

Routine diabetes care

Most routine appointments for diabetes clinics have been paused during the coronavirus outbreak. Some are going ahead using telephone or virtual clinics.

Check with your clinic or GP about when and how they can connect with you. Keep a record of your blood glucose readings. Make a list of your medications. Write down any issues that you want to discuss during the consultation.

Type 2 diabetes education and support

Face-to-face group education and many appointments have been paused for the moment. People are being supported by phone and virtual appointments.

You will still be referred for diabetes education and support and your local team will be in touch. You can also access free online education on the Diabetes Ireland website.

Type 1 diabetes services

Type 1 diabetes care is usually hospital-based. Contact your diabetes team for details of available service.

Diabetic retina screening

Screening is not taking place during the coronavirus outbreak.

For the most up to date information please visit the Diabetic Retina Screen website. Freephone 1800 45 45 55 or email info@screeningservice.ie

If you have sight problems while waiting for your next screening, phone your GP. Do not ignore any changes to your sight. Changes could include sensitivity to light or a deterioration in your vision.

Podiatry services for people with diabetes

During the coronavirus pandemic, routine podiatry appointments have been put on hold. But urgent podiatry treatments are provided in community or hospital settings.

If you are a current podiatry service user and need urgent treatment, contact your usual clinic or your GP.

If you are a new patient needing podiatry services please contact your GP.

Some podiatry services may be provided differently. These could be over the phone or by a video consultation.

Care for your feet

  • Wash, dry and check your feet daily
  • Apply moisturiser (not in between your toes) daily
  • Make sure your socks fit well and are not too tight and they do not leave any skin markings, especially around the ankle
  • Wear well fitting shoes at all times to protect your feet from injury, do not walk barefoot
  • If you have insoles or orthotics or custom footwear continue to wear these for all activities, even while cocooning or self isolating
  • Avoid sitting for long periods of time, especially with legs crossed or too near a heat source for example a fire or radiator
  • Do not use circulation boosters, foot spas or hot water bottles
  • Keep active to maintain blood flow to your lower limbs, try to walk short distances every half hour
  • Do not use sharp instruments on your feet unless you understand the risks associated with it
  • If you have poor vision do not cut your toenails. Ask a carer or family member to cut and file them for you
  • Take care of small scrapes, cuts and wounds. Do not burst blisters. Apply a sterile dressing to any wound and check it every day. contact your GP, nurse or Podiatrist if it does not improve
  • Continue to follow any individual treatment plan you were given for a lower limb condition

The Diabetes Ireland website has supports and information for everyone with diabetes and their families. Their helpline 01 842 8118 is open from Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.

Mind your mental health

Infectious disease outbreaks like coronavirus (COVID-19) can be worrying for people with diabetes. This can affect your mental health.

Read our advice on minding your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak.

Read more advice on dealing with coronavirus and Type 1 diabetes.

Get medical help if you need it

Protecting yourself from coronavirus is important. But do not ignore or delay seeking medical treatment for other signs or symptoms.

Phone your GP to discuss your symptoms. They may give you advice over the phone or arrange to see you in person.

If you are feeling very unwell, call 112 or 999 and tell them about your symptoms. In particular, if you or someone else is showing signs of a stroke or heart attack. Do not be afraid to go to your local emergency department.

Join the Fight Against Coronavirus.

Download the CovidTracker app