“Flu season is right around the corner, and that means it’s time to get your annual flu shot,” says LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni. He adds, “If you have diabetes, be at the front of the line. A flu shot can save your life.”
Flu sickens and kills thousands of people every year, and diabetics who become ill are at an increased risk for complications, such as pneumonia.
Flu and Diabetes
Along with fever, stuffy noise, sore throat and body aches, flu causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. These effects can raise blood sugar levels. At the same time, however, they can also lead to dehydration, which can make blood sugar levels plummet. Erratic blood sugar levels are not good for diabetics.
Diabetes is at Epidemic Stage
More than 25 million people in the United States and Canada are diabetic. At least seven million more have diabetes and do not know it. It is not a coincidence that many of these people are also obese. Diabetes, particularly type 2 diabetes, is often related to this condition. Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness, kidney failure and amputations of feet and legs not related to accidents or injury. The CDC predicts that one out of every three U.S. residents will have type 2 diabetes by 2050.
Diabetics usually take longer to recover from the flu. They are also more likely to die when they get it.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that diabetics get an annual flu shot by mid-November, before flu season begins. (The nasal spray vaccine should not be given to people with diabetes.) Because diabetics are also at increased risk for pneumonia, the CDC further recommends that they get the pneumococcal vaccination. Both of these vaccines are fully covered under Medicare Part B.
Even with a vaccination, people sometimes still get the flu. However, on these occasions, the illness tends to be milder and easier to manage. Recovery is usually faster.
If you are diabetic and you do get the flu, take care of yourself. Always:
Which Flu Shot Should You Get?
This year, for the first time, a limited number of vaccines will protect against four strains of flu instead of the traditional three. Egg-free shots (most flu vaccines are grown in eggs) are also available for the first time for people who are allergic to eggs. Talk to your health care provider about the flu shot that is best for you.
- Check the label before taking any over-the-counter (OTC) medication. Some OTC medications – cough syrup for example – contain sugar. Ask your pharmacist to recommend a medication that is low in sugar or better yet, sugar-free.
- Stay hydrated and eat. Let your doctor know if you are having difficulty keeping food down as this may affect your diabetes medication. It may need to be adjusted while you are sick.
- Weigh yourself every day. Losing weight when you are not trying to do so can be a signal that your blood sugar is too high.
In addition to getting an annual flu shot, here are other tips that will help keep the flu away:
- Cover nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing/ sneezing or cough/ sneeze into elbow.
- Wash hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner, especially after coughing/ sneezing.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth.
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you have the flu, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine) and keep away from others.
The LHSFNA also has health alerts and other materials regarding the flu and diabetes prevention and detection that are available in English and in Spanish. Order them through the Fund’s online Publications Catalogue.
[Janet Lubman Rathner]