Diabetes and COVID-19: Any special precautions to be taken?

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Increase your protein intake and exercise regularly

The COVID-19 pandemic has created fear and panic for everyone, especially people with diabetes. It is true that the people with diabetes are prone to all types of infections, bacterial, fungal and even viral.

There is data to suggest that while people with diabetes may not be more prone to COVID-19, they certainly tend to develop more severe forms of disease. Moreover, even in those with infections like COVID-19, which leads to pneumonia, the chances of a secondary bacterial infection complicating the viral pneumonia is also there.

Hence, people with diabetes should take particular precautions with respect to COVID-19, as they already are in a  slightly immuno-compromised state.


What can be done to prevent COVID-19 infection?

As with every one else, it is important to maintain good hygiene, particularly with respect to frequent washing of hands with soap and water and also with a sanitizer, if necessary especially in a health care setting. If you know someone has cough, cold or fever, it is better to avoid contact with them.

The spread of the virus is known to be through droplet infection. Hence, if somebody with COVID-19 coughs or sneezes, you are likely to catch the infection. It is not necessary to wear a mask unless you already have an infection. However, if you have the infection, you should definitely wear a mask to prevent infecting others.


What special precautions should people with diabetes take?

  1. It is important to keep your blood sugars under good control. Any infection is likely to increase the blood sugar levels and uncontrolled diabetes can further lead to worsening of the infection.
  2. Increased testing of the blood glucose levels with a Glucometer or Continuous Glucose Monitoring may be necessary.
  3. If the blood sugar levels are found to go very high, please consult your doctor and bring your sugars under good control as quickly as possible.
  4. Unless you have type 1 diabetes or severe insulin requiring type 2 diabetes, where the sugar levels tend to go very high and signs of ketosis or diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) develop, it is not necessary to get admitted into the hospital.
  5. Follow all the usual precautions like washing your hands with soap and water regularly and ‘social distancing’ i.e. keeping a distance from people who are likely to be infected. I prefer the term ‘physical distancing’.
  6. Although spreading of the infection through a needle used for blood glucose testing or insulin injections is highly unlikely, it is better not to share your blood testing lancet or insulin needles with anybody else.
  7. During this period of lockdown, see that you follow your diet, decrease your carbohydrate (eg., rice or chappathis), increase your protein intake and exercise regularly. You should also take your medicines regularly.
  8. As soon as the lockdown is over, immediately contact a diabetes centre and get you check ups done.

In summary, all people with diabetes should be aware of COVID-19 infection and avoid coming with contact with an infected person and thus prevent developing the infection. If by chance you have already developed the infection, please see that you keep yourself isolated and don’t infect other family members or people whom you may be in contact with. Most importantly keep your diabetes under good control and seek medical attention as soon as possible.


DR.V. MOHAN, Chairman, Dr. Mohan’s Diabetes Specialities Centre, Chennai

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