People with Diabetes and COVID-19: A Guide for Staying Healthy

March 20, 2020

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Colette M. Knight M.D. contributes to topics such as Diabetes .

Updated: 4/28/2020

People with diabetes are not more likely to get COVID-19 than the general population, according to the American Diabetes Association. However, people with serious chronic medical conditions, including diabetes, are at a higher risk of experiencing complications and getting very sick from the virus.

“All persons with diabetes should be developing a plan ahead of time in case you get sick,” says Colette Knight, M.D., chair of the diabetes institute at Hackensack University Medical Center. “Your plan should include glucose monitoring, medication adherence and good nutrition – all of this is very important to get you through any illness.”

How to prepare

  • Keep a list of all medications and supplies that are needed for diabetes management.
  • Confirm the contact information for your physician, diabetes educator and pharmacist in the event that you need to call them.
  • Keep in mind that insulin should be taken as scheduled even when you are sick and may need to be increased. Talk to your doctor about how much insulin you should have on hand.
  • Checking blood glucose is important and should be done before each meal and at bedtime. Sometimes more frequent testing up to every 2 – 4 hours may be required.
  • Be sure you have at least one month of diabetes testing supplies and medication.

Steps to take

The coronavirus pandemic will bring new challenges for those who are living with diabetes.  Things are changing rapidly, and everyday life activities have been affected.  Here a few helpful tips to help you during this time:

  • Avoid large groups or social gatherings.
  • Avoid traveling unless it is absolutely necessary.
  • Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face especially mouth and nose.
  • Do not share food or drinks.

If you do become sick:

Pay attention for potential symptoms. COVID-19 causes flu-like symptoms including cough and breathing difficulty, or at least two of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

“If you are feeling ill, call your doctor to discuss your symptoms immediately,” says Dr. Knight.

Your doctor will decide if further testing is necessary. When you call:

  • Have your glucose reading available.
  • Have your ketone reading available (Type 1 Diabetes).
  • Keep track of your fluid consumption (you can use a 1-liter water bottle) and report.
  • Prepare a list of questions ahead of time so you don’t forget important questions about disease management.
  • If you have concerns about going to your doctor’s office, please ask if telemedicine can be used in place of a face-to-face visit.

“While it may seem a bit scary – with preparation and some extra caution, people with diabetes can safely get past this difficult time,” says Dr. Knight.

Next Steps and Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.