Sick Days

Before diabetes, the usual parent prescription for a cold or flu was rest, refreshments and reruns. After a diabetes diagnosis, tending to a cold also includes managing blood glucose (blood sugar) levels that may be more difficult to control.

Managing Diabetes on Sick Days

Take notes. Create a "sick day notebook" to help you keep track of everything when your child is sick.

In your notebook, include:

  • The doctor's guidelines including when to call.
  • Your diabetes care team's daytime and after-hours phone numbers.
  • A copy of your child's insurance card.
  • Sick-day meal plans that your child will eat.
  • A list of over-the-counter medicines that do not interfere with insulin or blood glucose levels.
  • A record of blood glucose readings, insulin dosages and carbohydrate counts of foods eaten.
  • Comics, poems, pictures or anything else that may help your child feel better.

What to Expect

Our bodies fight disease by releasing hormones. The downside is that these hormones can make blood glucose levels go up and hamper the effects of insulin.

When sick, your child:

  • Is likely to need extra insulin.
  • Will need to check blood glucose as often as every 2-3 hours
  • Will need to check blood or urine ketones as often as every 4 hours.
  • Should drink lots of clear liquids – no caffeine.
  • Should continue taking regular medicine.

Contact the doctor if your child has:

  • Had a fever for two days.
  • Been throwing up or having diarrhea for 6 hours.
  • Can't keep any fluids down, even small amounts (sips) of clear liquids.
  • Glucose levels are way over target range (ask your diabetes care team how high) even with additional insulin.
  • Moderate or large urine ketones.
  • Any symptoms of dehydration or ketoacidosis including difficulty breathing, chest pains, fruity smelling breath or dry lips.

If blood glucose levels get too high, your child's body will start to produce ketones. High ketone levels that go unchecked can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis or a diabetic coma.

If your child begins showing signs of ketoacidosis, GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM IMMEDIATELY! Take your "sick day notebook" with you so you have all the numbers you need and a copy of your insurance card.

  • Last Reviewed: July 31, 2013
  • Last Edited: October 28, 2013

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