Observing World Diabetes Day during the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Rita Zapien, MS RD LD CDCES

November 14th marks World Diabetes Day (WDD), an event created to spread awareness about this all-too-common health condition. This year’s observance comes in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, which poses new challenges for those living with the disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one in every 10 Americans has diabetes, and 1 in 3 people are currently living with prediabetes. A recent analysis of persons with diabetes in Italy and China suggests that those with diabetes are not at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than those without diabetes. However, they are at a higher risk of dying from COVID-19 related complications.

The CDC finds that those with type 2 diabetes are at risk of serious illness from COVID-19, while those with type 1 diabetes or gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) may be at increased risk for serious illness from the virus. Whether you have type 1 or type two diabetes, the goal is to make sure you are prepared in the event you do contract the coronavirus.

To do that, make a list of your medications, doctor’s office and pharmacy contact information, along with your blood glucose readings. In addition, keep enough diabetes supplies and medications on hand, and stock your pantry with sick-day essentials like juice, crackers, broths, soups and popsicles to help you stay hydrated, if you cannot keep food down.

When sick with a viral infection, people with type 1 diabetes face an increased risk of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). It occurs when the body starts breaking down stored fat, and ketones build up, leading to too much acid in the blood. DKA is a serious complication of diabetes that can lead to coma or death.

Signs of DKA can include flu-like symptoms like fatigue, weakness, body aches, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dehydration and a fruity smell to the breath with fast breathing. If you experience vomiting with moderate or high ketones, seek help from your healthcare provider immediately.

COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness-of-breath, loss of taste and/or smell, body chills, and persistent headaches. Those with diabetes can protect themselves from COVID-19 by wearing a mask, washing hands frequently, social distancing and getting a yearly flu vaccine, which are available at Legacy clinics and pharmacies.

At Legacy, we have resources and tools for those living with diabetes, or at risk for diabetes. Our health experts will work with you to create a plan to help you successfully manage your diabetes. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call (832) 548 5000 or visit our locations page to find a Legacy clinic near you.