Around two million people in Chile live with diabetes. According to the latest Health Survey (ENS) this pathology has a prevalence of 12.3% within the Chilean population.
The call to prevent influenza and to take care of the health of people living with diabetes is fundamental at this time of year, since the combination of both diseases can cause serious complications in their state of health and alter the ability to keep their glucose at healthy levels.
How is influenza related to diabetes?
According to Mayo Clinic, when a person becomes infected with a virus, the body makes its own extra glucose to produce energy to fight the infection. Also, when you get the flu, the body tends to release the stress hormone – cortisol – which reduces the effectiveness of insulin in the body and thus impacts glucose levels. The combination of these two factors can result in high glucose levels that are difficult to control later1.
Douglas Barbieri, medical director of Abbott’s diabetes business in Latin America, explains that “when a person living with diabetes is infected with influenza, it is essential to be in contact with their health specialist and monitor glucose levels, since by presenting changes in them, other health conditions can be triggered – such as diabetic ketoacidosis – that require immediate medical attention as they can put at risk the life of the person.”
He adds that everyone should follow general self-care precautions to prevent, recognize, and treat the flu, but those living with diabetes should take special care and have a pre-defined health care plan with their health care team.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages people with diabetes to get a flu vaccine every year2. “Vaccination is a safe and simple way to reduce the risk of getting the flu, several studies have shown that the influenza vaccine reduces the risk of infection by 40% to 60%3 and associated health complications by 70% to 90%4,” says Barbieri.
If a person living with diabetes catches the flu, it’s critical to seek medical attention as soon as possible and check their glucose levels more often. Dr. Barbieri adds that “you should be on the lookout for symptoms such as: vomiting or diarrhea for more than six hours, fever or malaise for more than two days, glucose levels above 240 mg/dL despite administering insulin, symptoms of ketoacidosis (such as fruity breath, shortness of breath, dry mouth and skin), and symptoms of dehydration.” In case of presenting any of these you must notify it as soon as possible to your family doctor, so that together the treatment to be followed can be applied.
It is important to note that you should not take any medication without first consulting with your doctor, since some drugs contain sugar and could influence your state of health. Having good planning and control of your levels with your health care team can make a big difference if you get the flu.
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