COVID-19 and diabetes: What you need to know

Having either type 1 or type 2 diabetes can make you more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Tiffany Pankow, MD, associate chief medical officer and director of Diabetes Education for the HonorHealth Medical Group, answers frequently asked questions about diabetes and COVID-19.

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1. Why does having diabetes put me at increased risk of COVID-19 infection?

Many people with chronic medical conditions, including diabetes, can be at increased risk of a more significant infection with COVID-19. The virus can worsen complications of diabetes, including hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and severe hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).

While we do not know all the reasons why patients with diabetes might have a more significant illness, we do know that diabetes in general can affect the body’s ability to fight infection. This is true of other viral illnesses as well – that’s why the COVID-19 vaccine, flu shots and other vaccinations are recommended.

If you are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, call us at 623-580-5800, so we can direct you to the best place for care. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

2. How can I protect myself from getting COVID-19 if I have diabetes?

In addition to practicing the recommended CDC guidelines on infection prevention (like washing your hands, not touching your face, wearing a mask and social distancing), follow your regular care plan to control your blood sugar. It's important that you:

  • Get your vaccinations. It is more important than ever to stay up to date on all your immunizations.
    • If you have diabetes, the COVID-19 vaccine is especially important. You should also get your booster shot if it’s been more than six months since your last dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or more than two months since you received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. There is growing evidence that those with a recent booster dose have added protection against infection and hospitalization, even against the highly mutated Omicron variant.
    • You should also get the flu shot and ask your provider about the pneumonia vaccine. While these additional vaccines won't prevent you from getting COVID-19, they will help protect you from getting COVID-19 and another virus, like the flu, at the same time.
  • Take your medications as directed by your healthcare provider.
  • Ensure that you have enough medications, lancets and test strips.
  • Don't delay care and keep your regular appointments. It is very important to continue to receive regular care, monitoring and treatment of diabetes during the pandemic. More than ever, it is vital for your health to manage your diabetes and work with your healthcare provider to optimize your treatment. Many appointments can be done by video visit, including diabetes education for more guidance or meal tips.
  • Make healthy nutrition choices to keep your blood sugar better controlled or reach out to your healthcare provider if you need more help controlling your blood sugar.
  • Stay active for 30 minutes a day.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. People who are overweight tend to suffer from inflammation and their immune system often has to work harder, so a healthy weight will play in your favor.
  • Get enough sleep every night and reach out for help if you are feeling more stressed or anxious than normal. Sleep and stress management are important ways you can boost your immune system.

3. What should I do if I develop symptoms of COVID-19?

We encourage you to reach out to your primary care provider if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 to see what recommendations for treatment and care are best for you. Treatment options are best discussed and started early on in the course of your illness in order to be most effective. Some people may benefit from the use of monoclonal antibodies, which can be discussed with a trusted care provider.

Your doctor may also recommend a video visit to get a better understanding of your symptoms and make additional recommendations for testing and care. You’ll also need to closely monitor your blood sugar levels and reach out to your provider if you’re having trouble managing them.

If you are experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, call us at 623-580-5800, so we can direct you to the best place for care. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

4. What other resources are available to help me manage my diabetes during this time?

In addition to in-person or video visits with your primary care physician, your healthcare provider can arrange video visits with other members of your care team, including a dietitian or behavioral health specialist.

During the pandemic, many people have found themselves under more stress, feeling down and sad, or always anxious. You are not alone if you are struggling with any of these symptoms. Please reach out to your healthcare provider if you are finding it challenging to cope with the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic or check out these tips for dealing with stress.

Note: This article was last reviewed on January 4, 2022. We will continue to update it as new information becomes available.

For the most current information

Our top priority is the health and safety of our patients, team members and visitors. HonorHealth is working closely with public health officials to stay up to date with the most current information and guidelines related to COVID-19. Visit our dedicated coronavirus page for the latest information.

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