There is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), as several countries have gone under a complete lockdown, or have been ordered to practice social-distancing. It is especially unsettling for people as they don’t have enough information about the situation and don’t know how the virus can be contained, or whether the virus will affect them differently, if they have additional health conditions! With new information about confirmed cases, deaths, travel advisories, or economic fallouts popping up every minute of the day, feeling overwhelmed can be an understatement! As there are more precarious times to come ahead of us, it is necessary for all of us to remain calm and take the right precautions in order to maintain good health.
According to American Diabetes Association (ADA), despite the fact that there isn’t enough data to show whether people with diabetes are more likely to get Covid-19 than the general population, the virus is known to cause serious complications in people with “underlying health conditions” (like diabetes and heart disease). With that being said, here are some things that you need to know, to keep yourself and your loved ones safe:
What is Coronavirus (Covid-19)?
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports that “coronaviruses” are a large family of viruses common in animal species, and only rarely do they infect and spread among humans. Which is what started late last year with an outbreak in Wuhan, China, linked to a market selling seafood and live animals, after which it was officially named COVID-19 virus. From there, it’s gone global. COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease-2019) is caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2), which has spread across 160 countries around the world. The spreading mechanism of the virus is primarily by transmission of respiratory droplets between people. The incubation period is 2 to 14 days, as per the CDC. Which means people can be exposed and spread the virus for days or weeks before even developing any symptoms. According to Harvard Health symptoms include dry cough, fever, myalgia and respiratory problems such as viral pneumonia, and respiratory failure. Additionally, kidney failure, organ inflammation, or Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, in which the lungs fill with fluid, may also occur.
Are people with diabetes at higher risk?
Although there are no evidence of any direct connection between diabetes and death from COVID-19, The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) did release a higher case-fatality rate report with the following pre-existing conditions among the people:
- 10.5% for cardiovascular disease
- 7.3% for diabetes
- 6.3% for chronic respiratory disease
- 6% for hypertension
- 5.6% for cancer
Reasons why people with diabetes are at higher risk when it comes to infections like influenza (flu), pneumonia, and now COVID-19 is that, when glucose levels are fluctuating or elevated consistently, the immune response of bodies to protect against any diseases is lower than that of a healthy body, so there is a high risk of getting sick quicker than the rest of the population. Hence, ADA encourages people with diabetes to follow the guidelines given by the CDC and to review their sugar levels as often as they can in case they do get infected.
Precautions for people with diabetes
Most health experts from around the world have stressed on practicing social distancing, maintaining basic hygiene and doubling down on efforts to achieve good glucose control. One of the reasons why diabetic patients are at risk is also because high blood sugar weakens the immune system and makes it less able to fight off infections; hence it is advisable to exercise once a day, consume low-carb foods and keep an eye on any coronavirus-like symptoms.
Stay clear of flu-like illness: Endocrinologist Dr. Jennifer Dyer in Ohio suggests getting a flu-shot if you get sick with a flu-like or cold-like illness. If the flu has any progression to pneumonia, patients are advised to get support and treatment as soon as they can as this is what typically makes these viruses dangerous.
Dehydration: Philadelphia diabetes education and care specialist Gary Scheiner is of the opinion that PWDs (Patients with Diabetes) can also be prone to dehydration, especially when their blood sugar rises, so it’s important to stay hydrated. Stock up on bottled water, or even sugar-containing liquids like Gatorade that provide electrolytes and energy in the event of emergency situations, like when you run out of food in your kitchen!
Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA): If a diabetic patient gets COVID-19, there is a high risk of complications like diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) which happens when high levels of acids called ketones build up in your blood. DKA makes it challenging to manage fluid intake and electrolyte levels, which is important in managing sepsis. Sepsis and septic shock are more such complications that people with Covid-19 have experienced. Keep a check on your blood sugar (if registered greater than 240 mg/dl more than 2 times in a row) connect with your doctor and check for Ketones to avoid DKA.
Your Covid-19 Diabetes Plan
Lockdown, social distancing, or shelter-in-place, whatever it is that applies to your region, is making it harder for people to get supplies for their daily needs. So stocking up enough goods to last for a week might not be such a bad idea after all!
Stockpile some diabetes supplies:
- PWDs should have extra insulin on hand (preferably a month’s worth at least), along with extra glucose monitoring and diabetes supplies.
- It is wise for people on pumps to not just have pump supplies on hand, but also MDI (Multiple Daily Injection) supplies as a backup.
- PWDs should have the maximum number of refills of insulin and other medications that they have been prescribed.
- Keeping extra glucagon and ketone strips on hand can go a long way in this time of emergency.
- Phone numbers for your doctors and health insurance company ready whenever you or your loved ones are in need.
Stocking some healthy foods to go:
- Stocking enough food at a stretch, so you don’t have to leave your house often can keep you safe from contracting virus.
- Pick up some healthy carbs like whole-wheat crackers, vegetable or noodle soups, and unsweetened applesauce & simple carbs like honey, sugar-sweetened soda, fruit juice, or hard candies in case your blood sugar drops.
Keeping an eye on your well-being and doing what’s best for your health is the only way in which we can defeat this deadly virus. Although diabetes can be a chronic condition, it can still be kept in check by following a healthy diet plan, exercising regularly, taking prescribed medication, and monitoring your health status. Be responsible and alert about your health care decisions and educate yourself as often as you can while staying indoors and keeping the curve flat!