Diabetes and brief illness

Colds and the flu can stress your body and raise your blood sugars. Below are ways to help you manage your diabetes during a brief illness (24 hours or less).

Having a plan in place helps you be ready for an illness. It can prevent an emergency room visit and a hospital stay.

Take your diabetes medicines when you are sick

If you use these medicines, take them 

  • Basal insulin (Glargine, Detemir, Degludec, NPH), keep taking these injections. 
  • Fast or rapid acting insulin at mealtime (Regular, Humalog, Novolog, Apidra), talk to your doctor. They may suggest an insulin dose range (sliding scale or correction scale). Your insulin dose will depend on your blood sugar readings.
  • Diabetes pills, keep taking the pills. Your doses may need to be changed.

Test your blood sugars

Test your blood sugars at least four times a day. You may need to test more often, such as every two to three hours.

Test for urine ketones

  • Ketones in the urine are a sign your body lacks insulin.
  • Test for ketones when your blood sugar is 250 to 300 or greater.
  • Test your urine at least four times each day or until ketones are negative.
  • Make sure your ketones test strips have not expired.

Food and illness

When you are sick, try to follow your meal plan. If you need to eat light, eat something with 15 grams of carbohydrate each hour. If you cannot eat, drink at least 3/4 to 1 cup of fluid each hour to prevent dehydration.

Fluids for blood sugars under 250 Fulids for bloood sugars over 250
  • 1/2 cup regular pop
  • 1/3 cup juice
  • 1/2 cup ice cream
  • 1/4 cup sherbet
  • 2/3 cup soup
  • 1 cup sports drink
  • 1/3 cup Jell-O®  
  • 3/4 cup of a double stick popsicle
  • Water 
  • Sugar-free flavored water 
  • Sugar-free sports drinks 
  • Bouillon 
  • Broth 
  • Sugar-free Jell-O®
  • Sugar-free popsicles 
  • Tea

Call your doctor or nurse if you

  • Cannot drink liquids
  • Have moderate to large ketones levels in your urine 
  • Have blood sugars higher than 300 mg/dl two times in a row 
  • Have stomach pain or fast, hard breathing
  • Vomit (throw up) more than one time or have nausea lasting more than six hours
  • Have diarrhea more than five times in a day or longer than 24 hours
  • Have a fever that lasts more than 24 hours or is higher than 101 degrees 
  • Have burning or pain with urination 
  • Are getting weaker
Last reviewed: 
September 2018

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