By: Martha P. Quintana, RN, BSN, CDCES, Educator/Program Coordinator
Diabetes Health Center of the Community Health Trust

With daily life turned upside down by Covid-19, it is important to understand how the virus impacts those with preexisting conditions. In general, persons with chronic illness are usually considered high risk for other illnesses.

Diabetes is considered a chronic metabolic condition that involves the hormone insulin. Insulin is needed to convert carbohydrates into energy. A person with diabetes either does not produce insulin (Type 1 diabetes) or the body does not use insulin properly which is called insulin resistance (Prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes). This causes high sugars in blood if not well controlled.

There is a lot of misinformation when it comes to diabetes and COVID-19. A common misconception is that a person with diabetes is more likely to contract COVID-19 and other viral infections. That is not the case. Instead, issues arise if an individual with diabetes contracts COVID-19. As a result, they then face a higher risk of serious complications.

Risks

People with diabetes are more likely to experience severe symptoms and complications when infected with a virus. This risk includes other viruses such as influenza (the flu). The risk is also higher for our older population. When people with diabetes do not manage their diabetes and their blood sugars fluctuate or are always high, they experience a greater risk for complications associated with uncontrolled diabetes. The belief is that the more conditions you have the higher the risk for more serious complications. For example, having diabetes and heart disease. This makes it harder for your body to fight off an infection.

Your risk of getting very sick from COVID-19 is likely lower if your diabetes is well managed. The challenge for many people during these times is stress. These are stressful times! Many people are staying home more and are not as physically active as they were pre-COVID, and to cope with all that’s going on, start stress eating or binge eating. It takes a lot of extra effort to live a healthy lifestyle lately and this is key to managing diabetes.

Symptoms

Symptoms and warning signs of the virus to watch out for are: fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, sore throat, muscle pain, headache and new loss of smell and taste. If you experience any of these symptoms, notify your provider.

Prevention

COVID-19 spreads through tiny droplets that spray into the air when a person coughs or sneezes. It can reach people within 6 feet when they inhale these droplets. The virus can also spread from surfaces a person has touched.

If you have diabetes, take these steps to protect yourself from the virus:

  • Wear a face mask when out in public.
  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
  • Frequently disinfect any potentially contaminated surfaces, such as countertops, tabletops, and door handles.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Practice physical distancing by staying 6 feet away from others in public places.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the elbow (not the hands).
  • Avoid any contact with others who are sick, especially if they have a fever, cough, or both.
  • Keep your immune system strong by getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night and reduce your stress levels as much as possible.
  • Keep active! Even short activity breaks make a difference.
  • Drink lots of fluids including herbal tea. Avoid sugary beverages.
  • Include a variety of vegetables in your diet and limit fruits.
  • Try to keep your blood sugar levels under good control.

We are here to support and help with your diabetes management! We can also help you find resources if you are not able to afford your medications, such as www.insulinhelp.org. Please call us to schedule an appointment: (831) 726-4267.