With flu season upon us, it’s important to take precautions to protect yourself against the virus – especially if you have a chronic disease like diabetes (type 1 or type 2). Having diabetes doesn’t make it more likely that you’ll get the flu, but it can make you more likely to get severely ill from the flu and suffer related complications. Even if your diabetes is well managed, getting sick with the flu could cause you to develop pneumonia and bronchitis, which can result in hospitalization, or even death. Being sick with the flu can also cause your blood glucose levels to fluctuate, making it harder to manage your diabetes.
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 vaccine too. You are less likely to get the flu if the people around you don’t have it.
Getting vaccinated every year provides the best protection against the flu. Because the vaccine takes about two weeks to take effect, it’s best to get your flu shot by October so you are protected before the flu spreads in your community. But really, as long as flu viruses are circulating, getting a flu vaccine later in the season can still protect you against the flu. Although some people who get vaccinated might still get sick with the flu, people who get a flu vaccine are less likely to get sick with it than someone who does not get vaccinated. Flu vaccination also may make your illness milder if you do get sick.
Call your doctor to schedule your flu shot. Flu vaccines are also offered in many other places, too. If you need help finding flu vaccine in your area, enter your zip code into the HealthMap Vaccine Finder for locations near you.
In addition to getting a flu shot, you should follow these healthy habits to help prevent seasonal flu and other contagious diseases:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. After using a tissue, throw it in the trash.
- 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 for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone — except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
- While sick, 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. For those with flu who also have a high-risk medical condition, treatment with antiviral drugs can mean the difference between having a milder illness versus a very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay. Antibiotics do not prevent flu, but they are sometimes prescribed to treat or prevent complications that can follow the flu, like pneumonia and bronchitis.
Want to know how the flu season is shaping up in your area? Starting in October, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s FluView for weekly reports on flu activity, including state and region-specific flu information.