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Saturday July 11, 2020

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

What Diabetics Should Know About Coronavirus

My husband and I are both in our late 60s and have diabetes. We would like to find out if our diabetes increases our risk of getting the coronavirus.

Currently, there is not enough data to show that people with diabetes are more likely to get coronavirus (COVID-19) than the general population. But the problem for diabetics is, if you do happen to contract the virus, your chance of developing serious complications are much higher. This is especially true if your diabetes is not well-controlled.

Diabetic Risks


Health data is showing that about 25% of people who go to the hospital with severe COVID-19 infections have diabetes. One reason is that high blood sugar weakens the immune system and makes it less able to fight off infections. Your risk of severe coronavirus infection increases if you have another condition, like heart or lung disease.

If you do get COVID-19, the infection could also put you at greater risk for diabetes complications like diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which happens when high levels of acids called ketones build up in your blood.

Some people who catch the novel coronavirus have a dangerous body-wide response to it, called sepsis. To treat sepsis, doctors need to manage your body’s fluid and electrolyte levels. DKA causes you to lose electrolytes, which can make sepsis harder to treat.

How to Avoid COVID-19


The best way to avoid getting sick is to stay home as much as you can. If you have to go out, stay at least 6 feet away from other people. Every time you come back from the supermarket, pharmacy or another public place, wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds.

You should wash your hands before checking your insulin levels through a finger prick or administering insulin. Clean each site first with soap and water or rubbing alcohol.

To protect you, everyone in your house should wash their hands often, especially before they cook for the family. Do not share any utensils or other personal items. If anyone in your household is sick, they should stay in their own room, as far from you as possible.

The CDC also recommends that you stock up on medications and diabetes testing supplies to last for at least a month. The same goes for grocery supplies and other household necessities.

You should know that Medicare is covering the cost of telehealth visits. If you have questions for your doctor, you can ask by video chat or phone instead of going into the office.

If You Get Sick


The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are a dry cough, fever or shortness of breath. If you develop any symptoms that are concerning, call your doctor to ask about getting tested.

If you contract COVID-19, the first level of care is to stay home, check your blood sugar more often than usual and check your ketones. COVID-19 can reduce your appetite and cause you to eat less, which could affect your levels. You also need more fluids than usual when you are sick; keep water close by and drink it often.

You should also know that many over-the-counter medicines that relieve virus symptoms like fever or cough can affect your blood sugar levels. Before you take any over-the-counter medications check with your doctor.

Please be aware that if you start experiencing severe shortness of breath, high levels of ketones or DKA symptoms, such as severe weakness, body aches, vomiting or belly pain, you need to see your doctor or get to an emergency room right away.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published May 8, 2020
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