Keeping on top of your diabetes during COVID-19

Let’s face it, managing diabetes is not a simple task in the best of times.

Tracking blood sugar levels several times a day plus finding time to eat healthy and exercise while on the fly to meetings, school, dropping off or picking up kids, or any other myriad activities that make up a typical day, can be a challenge in the most tranquil of days.

We’re not in those serene-type days, anymore, and it doesn’t appear as if that is going to change anytime soon. We are in the throes of troubled times, flying through life by the seat of our pants, during this new thing called COVID-19. Let’s just call it the new normal. In these unsure times, we’ve all added some strange new procedures to our daily lives—quarantining, queuing at stores, social distancing, telemedicine, Zoom meetings—but despite the change, the one thing that must remain constant in a diabetic’s life is their daily regimen. 

Diabetes and COVID-19

While those without compromised conditions are beset with a gamut of emotions, and certainly don’t want to get sick, those with diabetes have an extra layer of apprehension when it comes to COVID-19: the statistics. According to reports, diabetics who contract COVID-19 are at a higher risk for in-hospital deaths. At one point, officials reported that one-third of England’s COVID-19 deaths were diabetics; New York City had similar statistics, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

However, it’s important to remember that diabetics are no more susceptible to COVID-19 than anyone else, according to the American Diabetes Association, (ADA) but, diabetics are more apt to get sicker and suffer complications, such as sepsis, sepsis shock, and diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), the latter which is a life threatening issue that occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin but instead produces ketone acids. Those risks, including the possibility of death, grow exponentially if your diabetes is poorly managed.

So, let’s mitigate the risk. It can’t be accentuated enough, get a handle on your diabetes. Don’t panic, but take precautions

It is important to maintain your self-care routine during this time in order to keep your blood sugar levels in check. Stress level, plus disruptions to diet and physical activity levels, can elevate issues for a diabetic. Your daily diabetes routine, should remain the same, for your safety; take this one sense of normalcy in a world that’s not so normal anymore.

Included within diabetes self-care, is stress management. The ADA advocates doing a mental inventory and stressed the avoidance of unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drinking and stress eating. It’s a nerve-wracking time, no doubt, which can precipitate depression and anxiety, as well as reactivating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Of course, you’re supposed to be following the recommended and mandated restrictions and suggestions, but, as a diabetic, you need to make doubly sure that you follow carefully. You’ve heard it, ad nauseum, here it is again: wear a mask, practice social distancing, avoid crowded locations, shop only when necessary, and wash your hands, often, for 20 seconds using soap and water.

Diabetics also need to take additional precautions that include the seven aspects of self-care

  • Keep exercising; walk, hike, stream exercise programs, ride a bike
  • Eat healthy
  • Monitor your blood sugar more often; maintain control
  • Take your medications
  • Use problem solving skills/use healthy coping skills
  • Minimize risk
  • Watch for signs of DKA, such as thirst, repeated urination, abdominal pain and nausea
  • If you get sick, aside from contacting your primary care doctor, follow your sick day routine
  • Get vaccinated for the flu and pneumonia
  • Utilize remote consultations as often as possible, including telemedicine

In case you get sick and/or must quarantine, diabetics should have additional supplies on hand: 

  • 30 days of insulin, or more, if possible; some studies recommended 90 days
  • Extra supply of diabetes medications
  • Food that can help in an emergency, such as sports drinks, juice boxes, canned soup, regular Jell-O, regular soft drinks, instant cooked cereals, crackers, unsweetened applesauce
  • Over-the-counter medications to have on hand include Milk of Magnesia, diarrhea control medications, antacid, pain relievers, thermometer, and vomiting control medications.
  • Needed supplies include extra water, rubbing alcohol and ketone strips,

There is support out there if you are struggling. Aside from your primary care doctor: 

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