We’re at the height of flu season right now, as infections in the United States tend to peak in January and later.
Having the flu can be dangerous for anyone. But it’s extra risky for people who live with chronic diseases like diabetes. Diabetes can make it more difficult for your immune system to fight severe illness from the flu. So even if your diabetes is well managed, you’re at greater risk of severe complications, such as hospitalization and pneumonia. Being sick with the flu can also spell trouble for your blood glucose levels.
That’s why getting an annual flu vaccine is even more important for people with diabetes (both type 1 and type 2) than it is for others. For extra safety, it’s a good idea for the people you live with or spend a lot of time with to get a flu shot, too. You are less likely to get the flu if the people around you don’t have it.
Talk with your doctor about getting a flu shot. The vaccine doesn’t give 100 percent protection, but it does make it much harder for you to catch the flu for about six months. The best time to get your flu shot is in September, because the vaccine takes about two weeks to take effect. But really, it’s never too late!
In addition to the shot, you can follow these precautions to help prevent seasonal flu and other contagious diseases:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way. Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you get sick, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
And what if you get the flu? If you can, talk to your doctor in advance about a sick plan. He or she may recommend antiviral drugs, which can help lessen flu symptoms and shorten the time you are sick.
Want to know how the flu season is shaping up in your area? Check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) FluView for weekly reports on flu activity levels and the states experiencing high volume of flu cases.