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What to do when you're sick

Having Type 1 diabetes does not mean you're likely to get sick more often than usual.

But if you do get sick, it can make your blood glucose higher so you'll have to take extra care.

You can contact your diabetes team for advice, particularly if you're vomiting or not eating much as this could turn into an emergency situation.

Do

keep taking your insulin - you may need more than usual

check glucose levels more often than normal

drink lots of water or sugar-free drinks to avoid dehydration

check for ketones – you can get blood ketone test strips on prescription from your pharmacy and a ketone meter from your diabetes team

try to eat small amounts regularly - if you cannot eat, drink carbohydrate drinks like milk, full sugar minerals or fruit juice or have ice cream or sweets

Don't

do not worry about taking medicines that contain sugar – small amounts will not matter

Flu and Pneumococcal vaccine

Get the flu vaccine every year. Everyone with Type 1 diabetes can get the vaccine free of charge. Check with your GP surgery when they offer the flu vaccine – it's usually in September and October.

It is also recommended that you get the pneumcoccoal 'pneumonia' vaccine every 5 years if you are under 65 years of age.

Diabetes and COVID-19

It is unclear if people with diabetes are at increased risk of getting COVID-19 (coronavirus), but if you get infected you are more at risk of serious complications.

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.

Avoid unnecessary visits to:

  • hospitals
  • pharmacies
  • other healthcare facilities

Try to make contact by phone.

Read more advice about diabetes and COVID-19.

Going to hospital

If you end up in the emergency department (ED) for something that is not diabetes, like a broken bone, tell staff as soon as you arrive that you have Type 1 diabetes. Make sure staff know how important it is for you to get your insulin and to have food containing carbohydrates. If you cannot eat because you need a test or an operation, you might need a glucose drip.

If you need to stay in hospital, tell anyone who's treating you that you have diabetes – do not assume they'll know.

Check your blood glucose levels more often than usual. The stress of being in hospital, and moving around less, might make them higher.

Diabetes Ireland has information on their website about what to do if you're sick.

page last reviewed: 27/11/2020
next review due: 27/11/2023

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