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Flu and People with Diabetes

People with diabetes (type 1 or type 2), even when well-managed, are at high risk of serious flu complications, often resulting in hospitalization and sometimes even death. Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections are examples of flu-related complications. The flu also can make chronic health problems, like diabetes, worse. This is because diabetes can make the immune system less able to fight infections. In addition, illness can make it harder to control your blood sugar. The illness might raise your sugar but sometimes people don’t feel like eating when they are sick, and this can cause blood sugar levels to fall. So it is important to follow the sick day guidelines for people with diabetes.

Vaccination is the Best Protection against Flu

CDC recommends that all people who are 6 months and older get a flu vaccine. It is especially important for people with diabetes to get a flu vaccine.

  • Flu shots are approved for use in people with diabetes and other health conditions. The flu shot has a long, established safety record in people with diabetes.

People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at increased risk of developing pneumococcal pneumonia because of the flu, so being up to date with pneumococcal vaccination is also recommended. Pneumococcal vaccination should be part of a diabetes management plan. Talk to your doctor to find out which pneumococcal vaccines are recommended for you.

Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of flu:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and throw the tissue away after using it;
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing;
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth (germs are spread that way); and
  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care. If you are sick with flu-like symptoms you should stay home for 24 hours after your fever is gone (without the use of fever-reducing medicine).
  • Everyday preventive actions can protect you from getting sick and, if you are sick, can help protect others from catching your illness.

Treating Influenza

  • If you do get sick with flu symptoms, call your doctor and take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.
    • Treatment should begin as soon as possible because antiviral drugs work best when started early (within 48 hours after symptoms start).
    • Antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious health problems that can result from the flu.
    • There are three FDA-approved influenza antiviral drugs recommended by CDC this season that can be used to treat the flu. These medicines fight against the flu by keeping flu viruses from making more viruses in your body.  A doctor needs to write prescription for you to be treated with these antiviral drugs.

Other Preventive Actions

In addition to getting vaccinated yearly, people with diabetes should take everyday precaution for protecting against the flu.

Questions & Answers

If I am younger than 50 and have diabetes can I get the nasal spray vaccine? 

The flu shot has a long, established safety record in people with diabetes. Your doctor or other health care professional can advise you on which flu vaccine is best for you. The nasal spray flu vaccine (live attenuated influenza vaccine or LAIV) is not recommended for use during 2016-2017.