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Diabetes and flu can be a dangerous combination

Diabetes and flu can be a dangerous combination

Health
Ill man in bed

The flu can be serious for anyone, but it can be especially dangerous for people with diabetes. In fact, people with diabetes are three times more likely to die from flu-related complications and six times more likely to be hospitalized because of the illness.
The reason is twofold, says Dr. Gauri Dhir, an endocrinologist with Tideland Health Endocrinology in Myrtle Beach. 

Immune response

First, diabetes can weaken the immune system and decrease the body’s ability to fight infections, she says.
“Once the virus attacks, it multiplies very quickly,” she says. “If the immune response is weak, the virus can overpower the body’s response and win the battle.”

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As a result, people with diabetes are more likely to develop serious complications from the flu than other people.
“People who have comorbid conditions like diabetes, even when well-controlled, have a greater chance for developing serious complications from the flu,” Dr. Dhir says. “They are at risk for developing pneumonia, which can require hospitalization and can sometimes be fatal.”

More difficult to manage

A second reason why flu is especially dangerous for individuals with diabetes is because the illness can make diabetes more difficult to manage, Dr. Dhir says.
“To deal with the stress of the infection, the body increases the hormone cortisol, which raises blood sugar and therefore the insulin requirement,” she says. “That change in routine, especially when you are feeling ill, can be a challenge.”
In addition, when you’re sick with the flu you may not feel like eating and drinking. That leads the body to burn fat to provide energy, which produces ketones. Too many ketones in the blood can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, particularly among insulin-dependent patients.
The condition is very serious and can result in hospitalization.
“You have to care for your diabetes more aggressively when you have the flu,” she says.

Importance of flu shot

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that nearly everyone 6 months or older get a flu shot, and Dr. Dhir says that’s especially important for people with diabetes, regardless of the type.
“By getting a flu shot, you can help limit the spread of the flu in our community and help prevent health care providers from being overwhelmed by a surge of flu and COVID-19 cases,” she says. “Getting a flu shot makes it less likely that you’ll become ill with the flu and, even if you do, it can help reduce the severity of your symptoms.”

Getting your flu shot is easy and convenient

Schedule your flu shot today by calling 1-866-TIDELANDS or attend a walk-in flu shot clinic. Click here for more information, including times and locations. 

In a typical year, flu kills an average of 37,000 Americans, according to the CDC. Still, only about approximately 40 percent of people get a flu shot each year.
“Get a flu shot to help protect yourself, your loved ones, your family and your community against flu,” Dr. Dhir says.
Dr. Dhir says the flu shot is recommended for patients with diabetes. People with certain chronic medical conditions such as diabetes should not get the nasal spray.
Schedule your flu shot today by calling 1-866-TIDELANDS or attend a walk-in flu shot clinic. Click here for more information, including times and locations.
If you start to notice flu-like symptoms such as cough, sore throat, body aches or nausea, avoid contact with others and contact your health care provider or 1-866-TIDELANDS.

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