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Influenza season is here, and experts say it could be a bad one. Flu is riskier for people with diabetes, so it’s important to get your annual flu shot right away.

Common but dangerous

The flu is a common illness, but it can be more hazardous than you may think. Every year, more than 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized with the flu, and it kills thousands of them.

When people with diabetes get influenza, they have an above-average chance of developing serious complications such as pneumonia, according to the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE). They are six times more likely to be hospitalized, and are also more likely to die.

“Getting the flu shot every fall is an excellent way of reducing the risk of getting sick,” said Evan Sisson, PharmD, MHA, CDE, FAADE in an AADE news release.

Flu affects blood sugar too

The physical stress of fighting Influenza can cause high blood sugar and make insulin less effective. Glucose control becomes even harder if you don’t eat much or can’t keep food down. A flu shot could help you avoid all that.

Smart strategies

Flu season usually lasts from October until April. Get your shot as early in autumn as you can. The sooner you get it, the longer you will be protected. If you put it off until January or February, it’s not too late to be vaccinated and protect yourself during the end of flu season.

The shot takes as long as two weeks to build up your body’s immunity. You need a new shot annually because the flu-causing virus usually changes from year to year, so the vaccine changes too.

Your immune system gets weaker as you get older, and diabetes weakens it also. If you are 65 or older, a regular flu shot might not be enough to adequately stimulate your body’s immune response. Ask your doctor whether you should get a high-dose flu vaccine designed to help with this problem.

Not perfect, but still important

Like other vaccines, flu shots are not 100 percent effective. Some people who get the shot will still get the flu, but they are likely to have milder symptoms than unvaccinated flu sufferers.

If you do get the flu, ask your doctor whether you’re a good candidate for an antiviral drug that could shorten the illness. But don’t delay: the medicine works best when taken within the first 48 hours after your symptoms begin.

Despite persistent stories, you can’t get the flu from a flu shot. Some people have temporary side effects from the vaccine such as a minor fever or soreness at the injection site.

Bonus tip: There’s more you can do to help avoid flu and other illnesses: wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. Use hand sanitizer when soap and water aren’t available. It’s an easy way to keep germs at bay!

Is it harder to control your blood sugar when you are sick? Share your experience and advice by commenting below.