Coronavirus: specific advice for people with diabetes

Web Resource Last Updated: 13-10-2022

Contents

Having diabetes does NOT mean you are more likely to catch Coronavirus.  However, if you do catch Coronaviruses, it can cause more severe symptoms and complications in people with diabetes. More severe symptoms are also likely in older people, and those with other long-term conditions such as cancer or chronic lung disease.

Latest Updates

What's changed?

The government has removed the remaining domestic restrictions in England.

There are still steps you can take to reduce the risk of catching and spreading COVID-19:

  • Get vaccinated
  • Let fresh air in if meeting indoors or meet outside
  • Consider wearing a face-covering in crowded, enclosed spaces
  • Practise good hygiene:
    • wash your hands
    • cover your coughs and sneezes
    • clean your surroundings frequently

It is still possible to catch and spread COVID-19, even if you are fully vaccinated.

**Please be aware that this guidance is relevant to England only. Please check the relevant Government websites for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales for their latest advice regarding coronavirus.**

Keeping yourself and others safe

There are still high numbers of cases of COVID-19 in England and there is a risk that you could catch or pass on the virus, even when you have been fully vaccinated.  People are encouraged to continue to act carefully and remain cautious. 

If you have symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as COVID-19, and you have a high temperature or you do not feel well enough to go to work or carry out normal activities, you are advised to try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people.

Symptoms of COVID-19, flu and common respiratory infections include:

  • continuous cough
  • high temperature, fever or chills
  • loss of, or change in, your normal sense of taste or smell
  • shortness of breath
  • unexplained tiredness, lack of energy
  • muscle aches or pains that are not due to exercise
  • not wanting to eat or not feeling hungry
  • headache that is unusual or longer lasting than usual
  • sore throat, stuffy or runny nose
  • diarrhoea, feeling sick or being sick

You can find information about these symptoms on the NHS website.

If you are concerned about your symptoms, or they are worsening, seek medical advice by contacting NHS 111. In an emergency dial 999.

For more information please see the UK Government website here

Travel

There are no restrictions on travel within England.

You should check the rules at your destination if you’re planning to travel to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, Ireland, the Channel Islands or other countries as there may be restrictions in place.

Many people with COVID-19 will no longer be infectious to others after 5 days. If you have a positive COVID-19 test result, try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for 5 days after the day you took your test. There is different advice for children and young people aged 18 and under.

Vaccinations

Vaccines are the best defence we have against COVID-19 and other respiratory infections such as flu. They provide good protection against hospitalisation and death. They also reduce the risk of long-term symptoms. The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective and vaccine programmes are continuously monitored.

If you are eligible and you have not yet received your full course of a COVID-19 vaccine, you should get vaccinated. A full course of a COVID-19 vaccine provides protection against severe disease, including against the Omicron variant, but this protection wears off over time. Booster doses significantly improve the protection offered by vaccines. You should get a booster vaccine for COVID-19 if you are offered one.

You may be eligible for other vaccinations, particularly if you are at risk of becoming seriously ill. Get vaccinated as soon as you are able to.

There is more information about the vaccinations available and when you should have them on the NHS website.

Covid vaccines and diabetes

The vaccines have been shown to reduce the likelihood of severe illness in most people. If you have diabetes, Diabetes UK strongly encourages you to get the coronavirus vaccine and take whichever vaccine you're offered. This is because people with diabetes are vulnerable to developing a severe illness if they do get coronavirus, and vaccines are the most effective way to prevent that from happening.

For more information about coronavirus vaccines and diabetes, have a look at the Diabetes UK website.

Wearing a face covering

COVID-19 spreads through the air by droplets and aerosols that are exhaled from the nose and mouth of an infected person.

In indoor settings where a face covering is not legally required, you should consider wearing a face-covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where you may come into contact with other people you do not normally meet.

What should I do if I have symptoms?

The advice in England is to try to stay at home and away from others for 5 days if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 and have a high temperature or you do not feel well enough to go to work or do your normal activities.

If you have diabetes and start to feel unwell you need to follow the sick day rules for type 1 or type 2 and check your blood glucose frequently.

You can find separate guidance for children and young people aged 18 or under on GOV.UK.

How coronavirus can affect people with diabetes

Everybody that has diabetes, no matter whether type 1, type 2 or gestational, is at risk of developing a severe illness if they get coronavirus, but the way it can affect you varies from person to person.

When you are ill and have diabetes, your blood glucose levels can be unstable as your body is trying to fight the illness. Your body starts releasing stored glucose into your bloodstream to give you energy. As a person with diabetes, your body either cannot produce insulin or the insulin you produce doesn't work as well. This causes your blood glucose levels to rise further. There is a risk of both high and low blood glucose levels as your body is working overtime to fight the illness.

For most people, the coronavirus causes a mild illness, but some people can develop a more serious form of the virus which can be life-threatening.

There’s further advice if you’re eligible for new COVID-19 treatments.

SGLT2i medication

If you have type 2 diabetes and you take SGLT2i tablets (medication that ends in 'flozin'), your doctor may want you to stop taking these for just now. This is because SGLT2i tablets can mask the symptoms of DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis) which can be caused by coronavirus.

If you have type 2 diabetes and take SGLT2i tablets, you can keep taking these unless you become unwell. If you are unwell, these tablets could increase your risk of developing diabetic ketoacidosis. 

There are lots of different types of SGLT2i tablets so have a look at Diabetes UK for the full list of brand names.

Shielding advice

Clinically extremely vulnerable people are advised to follow the same guidance as everyone else. However, as someone who is at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if you were to catch COVID-19, you should think particularly carefully about precautions you can continue to take.

These precautions are included in the guidance for the clinically extremely vulnerable.

Other tips to keep safe and well 

If you have type 1 diabetes:

  • Ensure you have enough glucose and ketone testing equipment
  • Be aware of you sick day rules provided by your diabetes educator team
  • Make sure you have a good stock of insulin pens, needles and any other medications you are prescribed
  • Stay hydrated – have plenty of unsweetened drinks and eat little and often
  • If you are an insulin pump user you should have insulin pens as a backup and a good supply of insulin pump consumables
  • Make sure your diabetes technical device  (insulin pump /continuous glucose monitor/Freestyle Libre device) is in good working order and if you have any concerns phone the company who supplies your device directly to troubleshoot and arrange a replacement if necessary.

If you have type 2 diabetes:

  • Ensure you have enough glucose testing equipment and, if appropriate, ketone testing strips (this might be if you have had your diabetes for a long time or have had ketones in the past). Ketones are uncommon in type 2 but remain a risk if glucose is high for a significant time &/or during illness.
  • Make sure you have a good stock of your medications, orals tablets &/or injectable therapies.
  • Be aware of you sick day rules provided by your diabetes educator team
  • Stay hydrated – have plenty of unsweetened drinks and eat little and often

For the most up-to-date advice then keep checking the UK government and NHS websites.

Additional JDRF advice for Type 1 diabetes can be found here.

To avoid catching or spreading Coronavirus:

Do:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently – wash for at least 20 seconds
  • Always wash your hands when you get home or into work
  • Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water isn’t available
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • Put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands
  • Cover your face by wearing a face mask over your nose and mouth in crowded areas such as public transport

Don't

  • Touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
  • Do not use pocket handkerchiefs as these are unhygienic, instead use single-use tissues.

If you have hospital and GP appointments

If you have been asked to attend a medical or dental appointment in person and have symptoms or have tested positive for COVID-19, contact your healthcare provider and let them know about your status. If you are having treatment for something such as an eye or foot problem and you do not have coronavirus symptoms, then your appointments should still carry on unless you have been contacted to cancel it. If you are in any doubt then phone the number on your appointment letter.

The NHS and medical services remain open, including:

  • dental services
  • opticians
  • audiology services
  • chiropody
  • chiropractors
  • osteopaths
  • other medical or health services, including services relating to mental health

The NHS continues to carry out urgent and non-urgent services safely. It is vital anyone who thinks they need any kind of medical care comes forward and gets help.

Keep up your routine of checking your feet, keeping to a healthy diet and doing some physical activity in line with the restrictions. If you notice something different that you are concerned about such as a cut or blister on your foot, call your GP and let them know. If you cannot get through then call 111 for advice. If you have a change in your vision you should get in touch with your local screening service or optometrist. 

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