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Handling Diabetes When You're Sick

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD

Like all kids, kids with diabetes get sick sometimes. But did you know that being sick can increase or decrease your blood sugar level? It can, so being sick can be more complicated for a kid with diabetes. Let's find out more.

Being Sick Can Affect Blood Sugar

               Happens in Diabetes?

 When the body is fighting illness, it needs extra energy. But as the body tries to get the extra energy, it can drive blood sugar higher. On top of that, many illnesses make you lose your appetite, feel nauseated, or throw up. That can cause the opposite problem — low blood sugar.

Because blood sugar can go up or down on sick days, it will need to be checked more often. And your insulin might need some adjustment, too. Your mom or dad can help you with both these steps.

Check the Plan

Your diabetes management plan will help you and your parent know what to do on sick days. These sick-day tips will tell you:

  • how to keep track of your glucose and ketones when you're sick
  • which medicines are OK to take
  • changes to make in what you eat and drink
  • how to adjust the amount of diabetes medicine you take
  • when to call the doctor

What to Do When You're Sick

Your parent and doctor will give you advice when you're sick. Here are some general tips:

  • Stay on track. Unless your doctor tells you to make a change, keep taking the same diabetes medications. This is really important to do, even if you don't feel like it. You'll feel better and get back to normal faster.
  • Keep a close eye on blood sugar and ketone levels. Your doctor will tell you how often to check these. People usually check more often when they're sick, so they can find out if they have a problem and, if they do, take care of it quickly.
  • Tell your parent all about your symptoms. Being sick means having symptoms. Maybe you feel hot and think you might have a fever. You might have lost your appetite and don't feel like eating. Perhaps you feel like you're going to throw up. Or maybe you already did throw up or have diarrhea. It's very important that you tell your mom or dad everything so they can help you get better and keep your diabetes under control while you're sick.
  • Keep drinking. It's good to drink plenty of fluids, even if you feel sick to your stomach or you're throwing up. Your parents and your doctor can tell you what types and how much fluid to drink when you're sick.
  • Get your parent's OK before taking medicine. Some common cold and flu medicines can change your blood sugar levels, so never take medicine unless your doctor and parent tell you to take it. They will make sure you get the right medicine in the right amount.
  • Take notes. Your doctor may want to know about your illness. You can help by writing down how you feel, what you ate or drank, and what your blood sugar levels were throughout the day.
  • Get some rest. People need rest when they're sick. It helps the body focus its energy on fighting the illness. Follow your parent's instructions for food, drink, testing, and medication, and get plenty of sleep.

Follow all of these steps and you'll be feeling better soon!

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013