Diabetics have increased risk of complications from flu

Certain groups of people, including diabetics, are at risk of serious flu complications each year, according to a report from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

More than 500,000 Kentuckians, over 11 percent of the state’s population, are living with diabetes, wrote R. Stewart Perry and Larry Smith, co-chairs of the American Diabetes Association’s national board of directors, in an op-ed piece in The Courier-Journal.

“Diabetes can weaken your immune system against the flu, and it also puts you at an increased risk of flu-related complications,” Fernando Ovalle, M.D., professor of medicine in the UAB School of Medicine and senior scientist in the UAB Comprehensive Diabetes Center, said in a news release. “The weakening of the immune system makes it harder for your body to fight the flu virus. Being sick can also raise your blood glucose and prevent you from eating properly. You are also at risk of flu-related complications like pneumonia.”

 There are several things Ovalle said diabetics and parents of diabetics can do to give some protection from the virus:
 • Get a flu vaccine shot. The nasal spray vaccine is not safe for people with diabetes.
 •Talk to your health care provider about the pneumococcal vaccine. It will help protect against pneumonia.
 • Keep track of blood glucose. It can be affected by illness.
 • Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
 • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
 • Practice the good-health habits like getting plenty of sleep and exercise, managing stress, drinking plenty of fluids and eating healthy food.

 For diabetics who think they have the flu, Ovalle suggests these steps:
 • Contact a health care provider immediately. Symptoms include fever or feeling feverish or experiencing chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuff nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. In children, vomiting and diarrhea can be common.
 • Continue taking diabetes pills or insulin.
 • Test blood glucose every four hours and track results.
 • Stay hydrated; drink lots of calorie-free liquids.
 • Try to eat normally.
 • Weigh every day. Losing weight without trying is a sign of high blood glucose.

vigilant and smart, especially when it comes to washing your hands.” Ovalle said. “And if you
every have any questions or concerns, contact your health care provider.” (Read more)

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