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Flu and People with Diabetes

Increased Risk from Flu

People with diabetes (type 1 and 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 sugars. 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 fall. So it is important to follow sick day rules.

Vaccination is the Best Protection against Flu

CDC recommends that people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, who are 6 months and older, get a flu vaccine.

People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk of developing pneumonia from the flu, so a pneumonia (pneumococcal) vaccine also is recommended for them. A pneumonia vaccine should be part of a diabetes management plan.

Treating Influenza

There are prescription medications called “antiviral drugs” that can be used to treat influenza illness. Antiviral drugs fight influenza viruses in your body. They are different from antibiotics, which fight against bacterial infections. Antiviral medications may help people with conditions that increase the risk of complications from flu (like diabetes) if given within the first 48 hours after symptoms start.

Other Preventive Actions

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

Questions & Answers

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

While the nasal spray flu vaccine is approved for use in people 2 years through 49 years of age, the safety of that vaccine in people with certain underlying medical conditions – including diabetes – has not been established. There is a precaution noting this in the prescribing information for the nasal spray vaccine [619 KB, 25 pages]. On the other hand, 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.