The flu (“influenza”) is a highly contagious viral disease that spreads when infected people sneeze, talk, or cough, and another person breathes the virus in the air.
Diabetics are significantly more likely to be hospitalized or die of the flu for a few reasons. The biggest problem is that the flu causes vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite, which can make it extremely hard to for a person with diabetes to manage their blood-sugar levels.
Having diabetes also weakens the immune system and makes it harder for people to fight off infections. This can prolong the illness and increase the risk of major complications, like pneumonia.
This is why experts recommend that diabetics get a flu shot every year — but also a pneumococcal vaccine, which helps prevent pneumonia.
Diabetic patients who get the flu must also be vigilant for symptoms of ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition in which the blood becomes too acidic because the body does not have enough insulin. It is very important to check ketone levels in the urine and avoid dehydration.
It is also important for diabetics who get the flu to check their blood-sugar levels every 2 to 4 hours and record the readings. Seek emergency medical attention if blood-sugar levels remain too high or too low.
A doctor might also recommend prescription antiviral medications, which can help lessen the severity of the flu if the medications are given within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.