Type 2 diabetes: How to manage blood sugar levels when you are ill – tips

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas, a large gland behind the stomach, can’t produce enough insulin to control your blood glucose level, or when the cells in your body don’t respond properly to the insulin that is produced. This can cause blood sugar levels to soar, and, if left unregulated, can lead to serious health complications, such as heart disease and stoke. While making simple lifestyle tweaks such as eating a healthy, balanced diet can help to keep rising blood sugar levels at bay, when you are ill, it can be harder to maintain a healthy routine, and this can pose a risk to blood sugar management.

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As LloydsPharmacy pharmacist Anshu Kaura explained, when you are ill, the demands of your body can change and this can amplify issues related to blood sugar management.

How does being ill affect blood sugar levels?

According to Diabetes UK, illness and infections, as well as other forms of stress, will raise your blood glucose (sugar) levels.

As part of the body’s defence mechanism for fighting illness and infection, more glucose is released into the blood stream. This happens even if you’re off your food or eating less than usual.

The health site added: “People who don’t have diabetes just produce more insulin to cope. But when you’ve got diabetes, your body can’t do this.

“The symptoms of diabetes can add to those of the original illness or infection and make it much worse.”

As a result, you need to know how to manage insulin or other diabetes medications and your diet, explained Anshu.

As she explained, one important area to navigate is cough medicines, which often have a high sugar content, which can send blood sugar levels soaring.

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It is therefore important to speak to your pharmacist first to access blood-sugar friendly alternatives.

Also, if you have diabetes, you may be more on medication that can interact with the cough so it is important to seek expert advice before choosing the cough medicine, Anshu added.

It is also imperative to stay hydrated as dehydration is made worse when you have a temperature or are being sick, warns Diabetes UK.

“In some cases, blood sugar levels can become so uncontrolled that you need to go into hospital,” warmed the health body.

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It is important to avoid sugary drinks, however, as this can have the reverse effect and raise blood sugar levels further.

According to Paul McArdle, Diabetes Specialist and Registered Dietitian: “There are plenty of sugar-free drinks using low calorie sweeteners that can help keep your fluids topped up without increasing blood glucose.”

Additionally, you should keep tabs on your blood sugar levels at least every four hours, including during the night, according to Diabetes UK.

Furthermore, you should keep eating and drinking, and, if you can’t keep food down, try snacks or drinks with carbohydrates in to give you energy, says the health body.

It added: “Try to sip sugary drinks (such as fruit juice or non-diet cola or lemonade) or suck on glucose tablets or sweets like jelly beans. Letting fizzy drinks go flat may help keep them down.”

“If you’re vomiting, or not able to keep fluids down, get medical help as soon as possible.”

What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?

As the NHS points out, many people have type 2 diabetes without realising because symptoms do not necessarily make you feel unwell.

Symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:

  • Urinating more than usual, particularly at night
  • Feeling thirsty all the time
  • Feeling very tired
  • Losing weight without trying to
  • Itching around your penis or vagina, or repeatedly getting thrush
  • Cuts or wounds taking longer to heal
  • Blurred vision

See a GP if you have any of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes or you’re worried you may have a higher risk of getting it, advises the NHS.

The health body added: “The earlier diabetes is diagnosed and treatment started, the better. Early treatment reduces your risk of other health problems.”

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