Jewels Doskicz is a registered nurse, freelance writer, patient advocate, health coach, and long-distance cyclist. Jewels is the moderator of Diabetic Connect’s weekly #DCDE Twitter chat, and she and her daughter both live healthfully with type 1 diabetes.

Illness is always a drag, but with diabetes it can throw a total wrench into your daily management routine.

How does illness affect blood sugars? Simply put — when illness presents itself the body increases its production of stress hormones. Infection and inflammation drive blood sugars skyward while vomiting and diarrhea can send them plummeting.

How do I manage illness and diabetes?

Check your blood sugar more often. "It's important for insulin users to check blood glucose every two to three hours when sick. Even non-insulin users should check more often than usual," according to endocrinologist Dr. Gandica in Diabetes Forecast.

Contact your provider about taking diabetes medication. Call the office for advice on management of your particular situation. They may want to see you for an appointment, or simply offer advice on cutting back or increasing diabetes medication until you are through your sick spell.

Mayo Clinic recommends contacting your provider if:

  1. You notice symptoms of high blood sugars
  2. Ongoing diarrhea or vomiting for more than 24 hours — or sooner if you're becoming dehydrated
  3. Fever that lasts more than 24 hours
  4. Blood sugar readings greater than 250 mg/dl (13.9 mmol/L) for more than 24 hours during illness
  5. If you have been instructed to check urine ketones and they are present (type 1 diabetes)

Drink up. Illness, fever, vomiting, diarrhea and other health issues create dehydration. Water is the ticket unless you are struggling with low blood sugar. Too many sugary drinks can complicate the situation by causing high blood sugars and ketones.

Monitoring either urine or blood for ketones serves as an alert system for serious issues brewing. Checking for ketones is a must with type 1 diabetes and illness, people with type 2 diabetes aren't immune to spilling ketones either — its just a rarity. Many other health issues can erupt into medical emergencies from simple infections to appendicitis. When the ability to manage your diabetes becomes questionable, its time to seek help from a medical provider.

To learn more on this topic:
10 Tips for Managing Diabetes on Sick Days
7 Tips for When Diabetes Makes You Call in Sick to Work
Flu Vaccine: A Matter of Life or Death?