What people with diabetes need to know about COVID-19

With new information emerging every day, there’s a lot we still don’t know about COVID-19.  

But older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions, including diabetes, appear to face a higher risk for severe illness from the new coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And if you’re living with diabetes and you contract COVID-19, you’re more likely to be hospitalized and need intensive care.

The good news is there’s plenty you can do to stay in control. The most important things are keeping your blood glucose well controlled and minimizing your chances for getting the virus.

Talk to your health care provider about managing your risk and any viral symptoms. If you feel ill — including higher fever with cough and shortness of breath — seek emergency care right away. It’s a good idea to contact the ER to let staff know you’re on your way and get any advice. If you have a face mask, put it on before you enter the hospital.

Stay safe at home

You’ve probably heard about the importance of physical distancing (staying at least 6 feet away from others) during the coronavirus outbreak. Take the advice extra seriously if you have diabetes. Never skip an opportunity to thoroughly wash your hands. And self-quarantine if you have been with others who might have the infection.

Here are some more tips:

Stock up on the essentials.

Make sure you have enough insulin, other medications and supplies (like syringes, ketone testing supplies, rubbing alcohol and hand soap) for a week or more.

Know what you can eat in a pinch.

Keep simple carbs and electrolyte drinks handy. Stockpile non-perishable health foods.

Find a way to de-stress.

From puzzles to knitting to genealogy and much more, some people are finding more time for hobbies. Connect with friends and find out what they’re doing to stay active.

Stay active for your health.

You don’t have to watch every news story or stay glued to social media. Take a solo walk or move more together with the American Heart Association’s virtual workouts.

If you have COVID-19

If you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19, do your best to ensure your glucose levels are carefully managed, and continue to take your medications as directed. You should consult with your doctor as soon as possible about scenarios that could trigger a change to your diabetes medication plan.

If your symptoms worsen and you need to go to the emergency room, take all your devices (e.g., CGM, insulin pumps) and medications with you. This will ensure you’re prepared and can continue monitoring your glucose levels. 

Take advantage of telemedicine

There’s no better time to take advantage of digital resources and telehealth to help safely manage your care from the comfort of your home.

Telemedicine is fast becoming a convenient way to get care without increasing your chances of exposure to COVID-19. It’s also freeing health care workers and supplies, which is especially important in hard-hit areas.

Many doctors’ offices have guidelines for virtual visits. If you haven’t heard from your health care provider about such options, it doesn’t hurt to call and ask.

If you’re not tech-savvy, don’t worry. Telemedicine technology isn’t complex, and it’s available to almost everyone. All you need is a computer with a camera and a microphone, or even a smartphone or regular phone, depending on your doctor’s office.

Don’t hesitate to reach out

The American Diabetes Association’s free online Support Community and the American Heart Association’s free online Support Network connect people with similar health concerns, including diabetes.  

The AHA is funding new research and connecting researchers and doctors with the latest information.

Get the latest American Diabetes Association information and recommendations on COVID-19.

Get the latest American Heart Association information and recommendations on COVID-19.

Review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 information and resources.