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Sick Days

When you are coughing, sneezing, or feeling nauseous, probably the last thing you want to do is worry about your diabetes. However, when you are sick, your blood glucose levels go up, so you need to be extra careful with your diabetes management. 

We spoke with Martin J. Abrahamson, M.D., Medical Director, Joslin Clinic, to get some tips on managing both sickness and diabetes.

Before you get sick

Make a “sick day plan” with your diabetes team.  This may include a special meal plan for when you are having trouble keeping food down. Ask your doctor if there are any over the counter medications you should avoid, or if you need to follow any special precautions. 

When you are sick

  • Always take your diabetes medication. If you are having trouble keeping the medicine down (vomiting), call your doctor.
  • Check your blood glucose levels at least 4 times a day. If you are too sick to test it yourself, have someone else do it.
  • Write your levels down in case you need to call your doctor.
  • Check for ketones if your blood glucose is 250 or higher. Write levels down in case you need to call your doctor.
  • Stick to your normal meal plan, if possible.
  • Drink lots of sugar free liquids to prevent dehydration

When to call your doctor

Call your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • A fever above 100.5
  • Vomiting or diarrhea for over 2 hours
  • Blood glucose levels above 250mg after two checks, or if levels do not go down after extra insulin
  • Moderate or large ketones

Page last updated: July 28, 2014