Diabetes Forecast

How to Handle Sick Days

By Allison Tsai , ,


Illness can lead to out-of-whack blood glucose, but according to Kelli Antinori-Lent, MSN, RN, ACNS-BC, BC-ADM, CDE, a programmatic nurse specialist at UPMC Shadyside Hospital in Pittsburgh and Molly McElwee-Malloy, RN, CDE, CPT, a nurse and diabetes educator with the University of Virginia Health System’s Diabetes Education Management Program, it’s manageable. Follow their simple guidelines for those days when you feel less than stellar:

  • Check your blood glucose more often to spot lows and highs—sickness can cause irregular spikes and dips.
  • Keep an emergency stash of diabetes supplies and over-the-counter medications and treatments so you don’t have to go out and buy them when you feel sick.
  • Have crackers or another easy-on-the-stomach snack that you can keep down if you are nauseated.
  • Eat carbohydrates every few hours, particularly if you are vomiting and on insulin. This will prevent your blood glucose from dipping too low and causing hypoglycemia.
  • Test for ketones. When your blood glucose is too high and your body doesn’t have enough insulin to use glucose for energy, it burns fat for energy. This produces ketones, which form in the blood and spill into the urine. Left untreated, your body can go into diabetic ketoacidosis, which can cause coma or even death.
  • Combat dehydration by consuming electrolyte-rich drinks, such as Gatorade or Pedialyte, throughout the day.
  • Call your doctor with questions about medication adjustments. If you’ve been vomiting or are dehydrated, ask your doctor if you need to come in for IV fluids.
  • Tell others that you are sick and let them care for you. 

For more information on preventing sickness, sick days and preparing for emergencies:

Sick-Day Rules for Managing Diabetes

Protect Yourself Against the Flu

Preparing for Emergencies



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