T1D & Illness: Safely Managing Your Type 1 Diabetes On Your Own
It's hard enough to take care of yourself when you're sick, but even more when diabetes factors into the equation. An illness (such as a flu or bout of diarrhea and vomiting) can make it challenging to manage diabetes. If you ignore your diabetes while you are sick or don’t know how to safely manage it, you may develop diabetic ketoacidosis – a serious condition that can even cause death.
So take note (especially teens and young adults who may be managing illness on your own for the first time) that when you are home alone and sick, you need to have a plan and the necessary supplies:
Illness Management Plan
- The most important thing to remember when you are sick is never stop taking insulin!
- Know the “10 Safety Rules for Illness Management” and have a copy available for when you are feeling unwell. Review them when you are sick.
- Do not ignore your diabetes and simply go to bed.
- Check your blood glucose and check your urine (or blood) for ketones every 2 to 4 hours around the clock.
- Remember: *High Blood sugar and ketones mean you need more insulin.
- Call your diabetes team or go to the Emergency Department if you vomit more than 2 times in 4 hours.
Illness Management Supplies
Keep the following supplies in an Illness Management Kit (shoe box or plastic container) so they are ready when you need them:
- A printed hard-copy of “10 Safety Rules for Illness Management”
- A new package of ketone testing strips. (Remember: You will need to check your urine or blood for ketones every time your blood sugar is above 14.0 mmol/L.)
- Blood ketone test strips are preferable, as they are more accurate than urine ketone testing, and reflect current ketone levels (vs. urine ketone testing, which reflects ketone levels a few hours prior to testing).
- An extra bottle of blood glucose test strips.
- A loud alarm clock. You will need to wake every 2 to 4 hours to check your blood sugar and ketones, drink fluids, and give extra insulin (if needed).
- Regular and diet pop, Gatorade®/Powerade®, chicken noodle soup, and crackers.
- Money for a taxi in case you need to go to the Emergency Department.
- A list of phone numbers for:
- Your diabetes health care team
- The on-call diabetes doctor or nurse
- A health information line, such as Health Link
- A family member who is knowledgeable about diabetes
- A friend you can call for help
The above information was adapted with permission from The Alberta Children’s Hospital Diabetes Clinic information handouts.
The above information was reviewed for content accuracy by clinical staff of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Diabetes Clinic.
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