Diabetes and the Flu Vaccine

Flu season is here. The flu vaccine is available. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people with diabetes (types 1 & 2) who are at least six months old be vaccinated.

Having diabetes, regardless of how well the disease is managed, puts a person at an increased risk of serious flu complications—complications as serious as hospitalization and as gravely serious as death—because the disease may leave a person immunocompromised, meaning their immune system is not as adept at fighting off infections.

To the point: "If you have diabetes, you are three times more likely to be hospitalized from the flu and its complications than other people."

Coming down with the flu can also make managing one's diabetes that much more difficult: blood sugar is harder to control, being sick can turn a person off to eating—creating havoc with blood sugars.

Finally, getting the flu puts a person with diabetes at an increased risk of potentially serious complications like pneumonia.

Flu Vaccine: Shot or Nasal Spray?

According to the CDC, the flu shot has a long and well-established safety record in people with diabetes. The nasal spray, however, does not. Patients are encouraged to discuss vaccination options with their health care professional.

Signs to Watch For

The CDC recommends that people with diabetes contact their health care provider or head to an emergency room immediately if they experience any of the following signs and symptoms of the flu:

  • You cannot eat normally
  • You go six or more hours unable to keep food down
  • You have severe diarrhea
  • You have lost five or more pounds
  • Your temperature is over 101 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Your blood glucose reading is below 60 mg/dL or above 300 mg/dL
  • You have difficulty breathing
  • You have trouble thinking clearly or feel sleepy

The Time is Now

The flu shot doesn't begin to reach its potential in protecting a vaccinated person until several weeks after injection. We commonly associate the onset of the fall with the beginning of flu season, but the important thing to remember is that the flu season itself doesn't peak until at least February.

For more information, call the CDC at 1-800-CDC-INFO. You can also click on the following link for the CDC's Diabetes Public Health Resource page on diabetes and flu.

Informacion en Español

Photo credit: Jay Inslee / Flickr

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