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Coronavirus: specific advice for people living with diabetes

To avoid catching or spreading Coronavirus

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.

As of 29th May 2020, the Government advice is for everybody to stay at home as much as possible but there have been some changes to Phase 1 of easing lockdown measures:

You can only leave your house for the following reasons:

  • Basic necessities such as food and medicine.
  • Exercise - you can now drive short distances for outdoor leisure and exercise but should remain in your local area
  • Any medical needs – to visit a pharmacy or deliver supplies to a vulnerable person.
  • Going to and from work if you cannot work at home.


If you have to leave your home for any of the reasons above, you need to wash your hands as soon as you get home and still follow strict social distancing measures. You should also ensure you stay 2 metres (6 ft) apart from anyone outside your household when doing these activities.

Public outdoor spaces can now be used for recreational purposes. One household can now meet up with another outdoors, but physical distancing is still required at all times and the maximum is of eight people in the overall group. No food or drinks should be shared between the group and shared facilities such as bathrooms should be avoided.

For the full details of the changes to the lockdown restrictions in Scotland in Phase 1 please click here.


What should I do if I have symptoms?

As of 16 March anyone developing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (new continuous cough or a high temperature), however mild, should stay at home for 7 days from the onset of symptoms as per existing advice. It’s important not to go to your GP surgery, hospital or a pharmacy if you think you may have Coronavirus. You do not need to be tested for COVID-19. 


Phone your GP if your symptoms:

  • are severe or you have shortness of breath
  • worsen during home isolation
  • have not improved after 7 days.


If your GP is closed, phone NHS 24 (111). In addition, it is now recommended that all individuals living in the same household as a symptomatic person should self-isolate for 14 days (household isolation). Information on COVID-19, including “stay at home” advice for people who are self-isolating and their households, can be found on NHS Inform.


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.


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


This advice is likely to be in place for some weeks.

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

Additional JDRF advice for Type 1 diabetes:,13X1L,3XRNUY,3W3B2,1 


  • 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
  • Try to avoid close contact with people that are unwell


  • 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. 


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.


Shielding advice

Shielding is a way to protect those that are extremely vulnerable and at a very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus. This involves staying at home and avoiding all face-to-face contact for at least 12 weeks. Those that are classed as extremely vulnerable are people with certain types of cancer and severe respiratory conditions. To find out more about shielding and who should be following this advice, please check the UK Government website.

Some people with diabetes may also need to follow this shielding advice if they have other medical conditions, for example, those with kidney disease or cystic fibrosis-related diabetes. However, under the current advice, most people with diabetes do not need to shield. If you have not had any instructions from the NHS to shield then you should follow the stay at home guidance.

Last updated: 02/04/2020

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