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Sick days

When you are unwell, you need to take extra care. Your body produces stress hormones when you are sick, and this. causes your blood glucose levels to rise.

Sick-day checklist:

  • Follow your sick-day action plan
  • Let someone know you are unwell.

Make sure you keep a list of contact numbers by the phone of your:

  • support people;
  • doctor;
  • diabetes educator; and
  • local hospital or medical centre.

Be prepared before you get sick. Read more about sick days in our:

Sick-day action plan and management kit

A sick-day plan is step-by-step written instructions on how to manage your diabetes when you are unwell. A management kit will contain additional items you might need when feeling sick, which means you don’t have to organise them when feeling unwell.

Discuss putting together your sick-day action plan and kit with your diabetes team. Discuss with family and friends the help and support you might need when sick.

Check your kit every six months to make sure items are still within their date and not expired.

The plan should be reviewed every 1–2 years.

Taking insulin when sick

When you are sick, you should continue to take your usual dose of insulin. Never stop taking or reduce your insulin dose.

Sometimes when you are sick, you may need more insulin or extra doses of insulin. Your insulin may need to be changed if your illness:

  • lasts for more than one day
  • or if you vomit more than three times in a day.

Talk to your doctor or diabetes educator to discuss the insulin dose that is right for you when you are sick.

Eating when sick

Eat according to how you feel and what food you can tolerate. If you can’t eat your usual meals, make sure you have small low-fat snacks at regular intervals throughout the day (for example, toast, crackers, boiled rice, soup, low-fat custard or ice cream).

If you can’t eat food, have sips of fluid every few minutes.

If your blood glucose level is:

  • below 15 mmol/L
    • include carbohydrate drinks (such as fruit juice or lemonade)
  • above 15 mmol/L
    • include unsweetened fluids (such as soda water or diet lemonade).

Dehydration when sick

High blood glucose levels, vomiting and diarrhoea can all lead to dehydration. You will need to drink more, but it is important what you should drink, based on your blood glucose levels.

If your blood glucose level is:

  • below 15 mmol/L
    • include carbohydrate drinks (such as fruit juice, cordial or lemonade)
  • above 15 mmol/L
    • include unsweetened fluids (such as water, clear soup, weak tea, soda water or diet lemonade).

Exercising when sick

People with diabetes are generally discouraged from strenuous physical activity if they feel unwell or have ketones present in their blood or urine.

Checking blood glucose levels when sick

When you are sick, you need to check your blood glucose levels more frequently—such as every 2–4 hours—and record all results. Illness or high blood glucose levels can lead to a serious condition called ketoacidosis.

When to seek medical assistance

If you have diabetes and are sick you should immediately contact your doctor or go to hospital if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • abdominal pain
  • breathlessness
  • drowsiness
  • nausea and vomiting
  • sweet fruity smell on the breath
  • your blood glucose level is higher than 15 mmol/L for two consecutive readings (in a timeframe of 2–6 hours)
  • there are moderate to large ketones present in your urine or your blood ketone level is ≥ 1.5 mmol/L
  • you can’t keep down any food or fluids.

More information about sick-day management

For more information on diabetes and sick days, sick-day management kit and action plan contact the Australian Diabetes Education Association on 02 6287 4822 to get copies of the following:

  • Sick-day management guidelines for people with diabetes
  • Feeling sick? What to do? Information for people with type 1 diabetes