Flu and diabetes: a dangerous combination

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Flu and diabetes: a dangerous combination

After many years of caring for ill people in hospital and never catching the flu, Mathilde V., 75, a retired nurse and mother of 5, had never thought she could be affected by it. She didn’t think she would ever have to consider vaccination. She always maintained a healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet, took vitamin C supplements and carefully avoided confined spaces (waiting rooms, shops, etc.) during the flu season.

Around her menopause, however, due to genetic predispositions, Mathilde was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. And a few years later, while nursing her younger daughter, she eventually got the flu. Unfortunately, the flu virus can have much more serious consequences for diabetics (1).

Since the organism is already weakened by this chronic disease, it has less resources available to fight the virus, making it more vulnerable to flu complications (2). The virus can also disrupt blood sugar control and therefore worsen the diabetes. The flu can develop into pneumonia (viral or bacterial) or respiratory distress, potentially leading to a serious progression of the diabetes, which can result in a coma or even death (3).

Mathilde suffered pulmonary complications that required taking antibiotics. Despite acute breathing difficulties, exhaustion and pain, she could not go to hospital, for fear of leaving her ill daughter alone, as her husband was away on a military mission. Physically weakened, it took her many weeks to recover.

Since then, Mathilde gets systematically vaccinated against the flu. Previously skeptical regarding the benefits of vaccination, she only changed her mind when she personally experienced the dangers of the diabetes/flu interaction.

“To avoid getting the flu, on top of getting vaccinated, it is important to have a healthy diet, to get some fresh air, to exercise and to wash our hands regularly, especially when in contact with other people."  - Mathilde

Our advice if you are diabetic and do catch the flu:

  • Consult your doctor as soon as the first symptoms appear to set a course of action (1)
  • Seek medical attention in case of vomiting, or if you have any question or doubt (4)
  • Measure your blood sugars more often (4)
  • Hydrate and feed yourself accordingly (4)
  • Take your treatment as usual (4)

Do you have a story or advice you would like to share? Contact us.

(1) http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Flu/Pages/Complications.aspx
(2) http://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-complications/lung-conditions.html
(3) http://www.diabetes.co.uk/flu-and-diabetes.html
(4) http://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-and-illness.html


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