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Coping with Illness

People with diabetes do not get more illnesses than other people, but if you do get ill your control may be upset.

Common illnesses such flu, sore throats or stomach trouble may upset your diabetes control, but blood sugar levels will usually return to normal once you are better.

What should I do if I am ill?

Your blood sugar may rise even if you are unable to eat your normal food and drink, so never stop taking your insulin or diabetes tablets.

  • Test your blood sugar every 2-4 hours and act on the result as discussed with your diabetes nurse or doctor
  • Try to drink 3 litres (4-6 pints) of sugar-free liquid throughout the day
  • If you don't feel like eating, replace your meals with carbohydrate containing drinks such as soup, milk or fruit juice with sugar free drinks in between
  • If you are being sick and cannot keep anything down take regular sips of sugary drinks such as lemonade

Consult your diabetes nurse or doctor if

  • You have ketones in your urine
  • You are vomiting or not able to keep your tablets down
  • Your blood sugar levels remain high or low
  • You don't improve quickly or you are worried


If your blood sugar is more than 17mmol/l twice in a row or if you are vomiting, test your urine for ketones if you are able. Ketones are acid substances produced when your body is short of insulin. Shortage of insulin means your body can't get sugar into your cells so you start to burn fat stores to give you energy. This is called ketoacidosis and is dangerous if not treated quickly so contact your diabetes nurse or doctor.

Can I adjust my insulin?

If you are on insulin and have discussed this with your diabetes nurse or doctor you should follow their guidelines. If you are not sure you should contact your diabetes nurse or doctor.

Be prepared

  • Flu vaccines are recommended for some people with diabetes, ask at your GP surgery
  • Keep basic medicines in the house such as painkillers and cough medicines
  • Keep a supply of test strips and sugary drinks at home for emergencies

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