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Sick-Day Guidelines for People With Diabetes


Table of Contents


Sick-Day Guidelines for People With Diabetes

What happens when you are sick

When you are sick, your body reacts by releasing hormones to fight infection. But these hormones raise blood sugar levels and at the same time make it more difficult for insulin to lower blood sugar. When you have diabetes, even a minor illness can lead to dangerously high blood sugar. This may cause life-threatening complications, such as diabetic ketoacidosis or a hyperosmolar state.

Plan ahead

Work with your doctor or diabetes educator to make a sick-day plan for you or your child who has diabetes. Discuss your target blood sugar goal during an illness, how you should adjust your insulin dose and timing (if you take insulin), and when you need to contact your doctor for help. Also, make sure you know how often to check blood sugar and ketone levels. Keep your plan in a convenient place, and include contact information in case you need to reach your doctor at night or on the weekends.

Steps to take during an illness

Here are some general sick-day guidelines:

When to call your doctor

Minor illnesses in people with diabetes—especially children with type 1 diabetes—can lead to very high blood sugar levels and possible emergencies. When children are sick, watch them closely for signs that they need immediate medical attention. Call 911 or other emergency services if you or your child has:

It may not be necessary to call your doctor every time you or your child with diabetes has a mild illness, such as a cold. But it is a good idea to call for advice when you are sick and:

When you are sick, write down the medicines you have been taking and whether you have changed the dosage of your diabetes medicines based on your sick-day plan. Also note changes in your body temperature, weight, blood sugar, and ketone levels. Have this information with you when you talk to your doctor.


Credits for Sick-Day Guidelines for People With Diabetes

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer David C.W. Lau, MD, PhD, FRCPC - Endocrinology
Last Revised August 15, 2013

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