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The Flu Season and Diabetes


We all know it: flu and cold season is upon us and the so-called “swine flu” has everyone’s attention this year. For people with diabetes, the cold and flu season is especially worrisome. Diabetics have a higher chance of being hit HARD with a virus like the flu. Having diabetes puts you at an overall higher risk of coming down with infections, and it also makes it more difficult to recover.{{more}} People with diabetes are more likely to contract the flu or pneumonia, and once they have it they are more likely to need hospitalization, stay longer once they are in the hospital and are more likely to die.

We like to throw around the words “I have the flu.” I remember as a youngster saying I had some kind of “flu” when in fact I probably had a very bad cold. I did have the REAL flu when I was in medical school and I will never forget it: I was sick for two weeks with the flu and spent the next two months getting over one lung infection after another. I lost 10 pounds off an already small frame and spent three months drinking food shakes trying to put weight back on. My friends said I had a “death rattle” when I coughed. The real flu does not play around.

I am trying to get your attention because I want you to take the flu seriously. For those diabetics out there saying they do not want the flu shot, PLEASE reconsider!!! Yes, the flu shot is not a guarantee you will not get the flu, but it DOES reduce your chances of contracting the most common strains out this year. And for the record, the flu shot DOES NOT give you the flu. If you happen to get a cold shortly afterwards, it is NOT because of the shot, it is just chance and you were probably going to get that cold anyway. Yes, I know some of you do not believe me. Every year I run into several people who say “every time I get the flu shot I get sick afterwards.” A light fever and pain at the site of the injection is common and probably from the shot, but a full-blown cold/virus is not FROM the shot. If you feel terribly sick afterwards, contact your doctor.

Rule for diabetics during cold season:

1) Get the flu shot

2) Speak to your doctor also about the pneumonia vaccine. This protects you from one of the most common and severe forms of bacterial pneumonia that kills people every year. You need this shot once before the age of 65, and then again afterwards.

3) Wash your hands like your life depends on it-because it may. The rule is to wash it long enough to sing at least one whole “happy birthday” song. Please don’t barely get your hands wet and walk off, or worse, don’t wash at all. As my daughters would say, “that’s really yucky”

4) COVER when you cough. The new proper way is to cough into your sleeve or elbow, not into your hands.

5) Keep a very close eye on your blood sugars. For most diabetics, when they get sick their sugars go up. Some, however, have their sugars go down. Either way keep a close eye because your medications may need to change.

7) Call your doctor with any concerns. Better safe than sorry.

Until next week, stay safe and healthy, Vincies!

Anita Ramsetty, MD
Medical Director Endocrine Care Group
Tel: 843-798-4227