For People Living with Diabetes, Flu Carries Additional Risk

There’s a lot to love about the change in seasons from summer to fall—crisp autumn air, colorful leaves on trees, the taste of hot apple cider on a cool afternoon. But the transition to fall also brings with it the start of flu season, which, for people living with diabetes, is of particular concern. The flu can start spreading as early as October, and generally peaks in January or February. That’s why it’s important to get vaccinated as soon as vaccinations are available.

For people with diabetes (both type 1 and type 2), flu vaccination is even more important than it is for others. Even when the disease is well managed, those with diabetes are at greater risk of severe complications from the flu, like hospitalization, pneumonia and even death. Diabetes can make it more difficult for your immune system to fight severe illness from the flu. Being sick with the flu can also spell trouble for your blood glucose level, caused either by the flu itself or by the disinterest in eating that comes with feeling ill.

Keep in mind it takes two weeks for the shot to take effect. While flu shots are not 100 percent effective, they do make it much harder to catch the flu for about six months.

People with diabetes also are at an increased risk of developing pneumonia from the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends pneumonia (pneumococcal) vaccine as part of a diabetes management plan. It is about 60 percent effective in preventing the most serious pneumonias, meningitis, bacteremia and death. For most people, one shot is enough to last a lifetime.

Getting vaccinated against the flu each year is the most important step you can take to protect yourself against getting sick with the virus and the potential complications that come along with it. In fact, while flu vaccination is particularly important for people with diabetes, CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get a flu vaccination each year. So take the time to get your flu vaccination this year, and guard against the illness and potential complications.

To learn more about why flu vaccination is so important for people with diabetes, visit our website and CDC’s flu website.

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