11 Ways to Fight the Flu

Coming down with a cold or flu not only makes you feel awful, it can also wreak havoc with your glucose levels. These 11 tips will help keep your diabetes in control and get you back on your feet quickly.

Keep checking your glucose levels. "The stress of illness can increase blood glucose levels, so check your blood every three or four hours, even if you don't feel like it," says Richard Jackson, M.D., of the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.

Chart your blood glucose levels. It's easier to notice a pattern if you record all of your readings. If you're experiencing lows or highs, call your health-care provider and have accurate information handy to discuss adjustments in your routine.

Check for ketones in your urine if you take insulin. High levels of ketones can lead to ketoacidosis, a potentially dangerous condition, so test your urine as often as you check your blood glucose. A negative test result is normal. Call your health-care provider if ketones are present at:

  • moderate levels (30 to 40 mg/dl)

  • high levels (above 40 mg/dl)

Take your medicine. If you're not eating, you may think you need less of your diabetes medication, but that's not the case. The stress of an illness can cause blood glucose levels to rise, so consult your doctor if your normal dose is not keeping your levels under control.

Consult with your pharmacist before taking over-the-counter cold and flu products. Choose one that works well with diabetes. "Some cold remedies can have a direct effect on blood glucose, though many don't cause problems," says Martha Funnell, MS, RN, CDE at the Michigan Diabetes Research and Training Center in Ann Arbor.

Stay hydrated. This will help keep your blood glucose under control. Dehydration can increase the risk of lactic acidosis, a buildup of lactic acid that leads to acidification of the blood. If you can't keep down liquids, try sucking ice chips or frozen pops.

Try to consume some calories. If you're unable to eat, the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston recommends alternating sugar-free fluids and sugar-containing fluids (soft drinks, apple juice, or sports drinks) every hour.

Know when to get help. Call your health-care provider if:

  • your blood glucose gets above 250 mg/dl and won't come down with adjusted medication

  • you are vomiting or have diarrhea for more than six hours

  • you are confused or excessively sleepy

  • you have stomach or chest pains

  • you have moderate or high levels of ketones in your urine

  • you have questions or concerns

Ask a friend, relative, or neighbor to check in. "If you're alone, have someone call at regular intervals to see how you're feeling and to remind you to check your blood glucose," Funnell says.

Stay in bed. Anyone who's sick needs rest -- make sure you get plenty. And don't waste energy worrying about unfinished tasks or projects. Just take care of yourself.

Plan ahead. Prepare a sick-day kit. Make sure to include:

  • healthful foods that are easy to digest (such as crackers, carrots, dry cereal, or fruit juice)

  • over-the-counter medications

  • glucose and ketone (if you take insulin) testing supplies

  • a list of emergency phone numbers