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

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

March 20, 2020

Clinical Contributors to this story:
Colette M. Knight M.D.

Updated: 2/11/22

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 getting very sick from the virus and experiencing long-term complications.

“All persons with diabetes should be developing a plan ahead of time in case you get sick,” says Colette M. Knight, M.D., chair of the Inserra Family 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 the insulin dose 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

Things are changing rapidly, and everyday life activities have been affected by the pandemic.  Here a few helpful tips to help you during this time:

  • Get vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines help to protect people with diabetes from serious illness or death, should they become infected. Recent research published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that a COVID-19 booster dose helped people who have chronic conditions like diabetes from being hospitalized or going to an emergency department or urgent care for COVID-like complications.
    • All Americans aged 5 and older are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.
    • All Americans aged 12 and older are eligible for booster shots, if enough time has passed since the original vaccines. (People who received Pfizer or Moderna vaccines can get a booster shot 5 months after getting both doses of the vaccine. People who received Johnson & Johnson vaccines can get a booster shot 2 months after getting the initial single-dose vaccine.) Learn more about why you should get a booster shot.
  • Wear a mask when you’re out in public. When choosing a mask:
    • Make sure it covers your nose, mouth and chin.
    • Use a mask with a nose wire, which helps the mask fit more snugly.
    • Make sure that the mask fits your face tightly, rather than leaving gaps.
    • Consider using a disposable N95 or KN95 mask, which has specialized filtering.
    • Don’t use a mask that has an exhalation valve or vent.
  • Wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your face, especially your 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.

COVID-19 may increase your risk for diabetes

Experts believe that people with diabetes are not more likely to get COVID-19 than people without the condition. But a new study found out that for some people, the opposite may be true: Getting COVID-19 may raise the risk of developing diabetes.

Recent research that appeared in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found that a month or more after children and teenagers got sick with COVID-19, they were at greater risk of being diagnosed with diabetes. Researchers found that other respiratory illnesses didn’t increase risk of diabetes for people under age 18, but COVID-19 did.

“This connection between diabetes and COVID-19 is yet another reason to make sure that everyone who is eligible to be vaccinated and boosted gets vaccinated and boosted,” 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.

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