Managing Sick Days

Everyone gets the occasional flu or cold but if you have diabetes, more attention needs to be given to caring for yourself when you get sick.  Blood sugars can become elevated when you are sick even if you have not eaten because your body is stressed.  Follow these tips when feeling sick to better control blood sugars.

  • Test blood sugars more often.  Your doctor may recommend testing every 3-4 hours.  
  • The doctor may also ask you to check for ketone bodies in your urine, especially if blood sugars are over 240 mg/dl.  Using a special type of test strip, dip the stick in urine, wait 15 seconds and compare the results with the color chart.  If it appears you do have ketones in the urine, contact your doctor.
  • Continue to take medication - insulin or oral medications regardless of whether you can eat.  It may be necessary to adjust the dosage of your medication on sick days.  Talk to your doctor at the next visit to plan ahead for these changes.
  • Eat regular food if possible.  
  • Choose regular calorie beverages/foods if unable to take in foods due to nausea or vomiting.  Examples include regular soda, regular gelatin, and sherbet.  Speak with your dietitian to plan which foods to have on hand for sick days.
  • Consume plenty of caffeine free liquids every hour to prevent dehydration.

The key to sick days is planning ahead.  Discuss sick days with your health care team and have a plan ready before an illness hits.  When you do have an illness, contact your diabetes educator or doctor with questions or any changes in your health.