Covid-19 and Diabetes

Covid-19 and Diabetes

On Thursday 30th January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak to be a public health emergency of international concern with millions around the world known to be affected. People of all ages can be infected with Covid-19; and for the majority of those infected, symptoms are mild. However, older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions (such as diabetes, heart disease and asthma) appear to be more at risk of becoming severely ill with the COVID-19 virus.

Like any other respiratory disease, COVID-19 is spread through air-droplets that are dispersed when an infected person talks, sneezes or coughs. The virus can survive from a few hours up to a few days depending on the environmental conditions. It can be spread through close contact with an infected person or by contact with air droplets in the environment such as on a surface and then touching the mouth or nose. Common signs of Covid-19 are typical flu-like symptoms including a fever, cough, breathing difficulties, tiredness and muscle aches among a few others. 

When people with diabetes develop a viral infection, it can be harder to treat due to fluctuations in blood glucose levels and, perhaps, the presence of other diabetes complications. Research suggests that reasons for this are are:

  • the immune system is compromised, making it harder to fight the virus and likely leading to a longer recovery period; and
  • the virus may thrive in an environment of elevated blood glucose.

What should people with diabetes know and do?

People with diabetes are among the most vulnerable to serious complications and death caused by coronavirus. It is therefore crucial that they take precautions to avoid the virus if possible. The recommendations that are being widely issued to the general public are particularly important for people living with diabetes and anyone in close contact with people living with diabetes.

General Public Health recommendations 

  • Wash hands thoroughly and regularly.
  • Refrain from touching your face before you have washed and dried your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect any objects and surfaces that are touched frequently.
  • Do not share food, glasses, towels, tools etc.
  • When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue (dispose of the tissue appropriately after use); or use the crook of your arm if you do not have a tissue to hand
  • Stay away from anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing/sneezing.
  • Avoid unnecessary travel, large gatherings and public transport.
  • Take extra precautions if you have to go out.
  • If you are ill with flu-like symptoms, stay at home.

Read more here.

If you have diabetes:

  • Ensure you have all the medication and resources you need in case you get ill.
  • Keep all relevant contact details to hand in case you need them.
  • Pay extra attention to your glucose control- regular monitoring can help avoid complications caused by high or low blood glucose.
  • If you do have flu-like symptoms (raised temperature, cough, difficulty breathing), contact your healthcare professional immediately.
  • Any infection is likely to raise your glucose levels and increase your need for fluids, so make sure you can access a sufficient supply of water.
  • Make sure you have access to enough food.
  • Make sure you will be able to correct the situation if your blood glucose drops suddenly.
  • If you live alone, make sure someone you can rely on knows you have diabetes as you may require assistance if you get ill.
  • Keep a regular schedule, avoid overwork and have a good night’s sleep.