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, which can result in hospitalization and sometimes even death. Pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections are examples of flu-related complications. 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.
Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) disease that affects how your body turns food into energy. There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant). More than 100 million Americans are living with diabetes (30.3 million) or prediabetes (84.1 million). Learn more about how people with diabetes can protect themselves from flu illness here.
The Flu Shot is the Best Protection Against Flu
Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) disease that affects how your body turns food into energy. There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant). More than 100 million Americans are living with diabetes (30.3 million) or prediabetes (84.1 million).
Flu vaccination is especially important for people with diabetes because they are at high risk of developing serious flu complications. Flu vaccines are updated each season as needed to keep up with changing viruses. Also, immunity wanes over a year so annual vaccination is needed to ensure the best possible protection against flu. A flu vaccine protects against the flu viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. (See Vaccine Virus Selection for this season’s exact vaccine composition.) The 2018-2019 flu vaccine has been updated from last season’s vaccine to better match circulating viruses. Immunity from vaccination sets in after about two weeks.
- Flu vaccination has been shown to reduce the risk of getting sick with flu as well as reduce the risk of having a serious flu outcome like a stay in the hospital or even being admitted to the intensive care unit. Flu vaccination also has been associated with reduced hospitalizations among people with diabetes (79%). See “What are the benefits of flu vaccination?” for more information.
CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine each year by the end of October.
- Injectable influenza vaccines (or flu shots) are recommended for use in people with diabetes and other health conditions(https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm). The flu shot has a long, established safety record in people with diabetes.
- The live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV), also known as the nasal spray vaccine, is recommended as an option for use in individuals 2 through 49 years of age. However, there is a precaution against the use of nasal spray flu vaccine (LAIV) in people with certain underlying medical conditions, including diabetes. Your doctor or other health care professional can answer any questions you might have about flu vaccine.
Get pneumococcal vaccines.
- Having flu increases your risk of getting pneumococcal disease pneumonia is an example of a serious flu-related complication)that can cause death.
- People who have diabetes should also be up to date with pneumococcal vaccinationto help protect against pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcal vaccination should be part of a diabetes management plan. Talk to your health care provider to find out which pneumococcal vaccines are recommended for you.
In addition to getting a flu vaccine, people with diabetes should take the same everyday preventive actions CDC recommends of everyone, including covering cough, washing hands often, and avoiding people who are sick.
If you get sick with flu symptoms call your doctor right away. There are antiviral drugs that can treat flu illness and prevent serious flu complications. CDC recommends prompt treatment for people who have influenza infection or suspected influenza infection and who are at high risk of serious flu complications, such as people with diabetes.
Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.
- Treatment should begin as soon as possible because antiviral drug treatment works best when started early (within 48 hours after symptoms start).
- For you to get an antiviral drug, a doctor needs to write a prescription. These medicines fight against flu by keeping flu viruses from making more viruses in your body.
- Antiviral drugs can make your flu illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious health problems that can result from flu illness.
- There are three FDA-approved influenza antiviral drugs recommended by CDC this season that can be used to treat the flu.
If you or your child have diabetes and experience any of the following emergency warning signs of flu sickness, seek medical attention right away
Emergency Warning Signs of Flu Sickness
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
- Fever with a rash
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
Adult Vaccine Quiz
Take this short quiz to find out which vaccines you need and create a customized printout to take with you to your next medical appointment.
Additional Resources for People with Diabetes
- Staying Healthy While Living with Diabetes
- Preparing for Sick Days
- Staying Well in Flu Season
- Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine
- People at High Risk of Developing Flu–Related Complications
- Treatment Fact Sheet [534 KB, 2 Pages, 8.5″ x 11″]
- Healthy Living with Diabetes Infographics
- CDC Obesity and Overweight Web Site
- Pneumonia (Pneumococcal) Vaccine
- Page last reviewed: September 18, 2018
- Page last updated: September 18, 2018
- Content source:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD)
- Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs