If you have diabetes, have you had your flu shot yet?

October thru March is officially considered flu season with January and February peak months, so now is a great time to make an appointment to have your annual flu shot.

If you have diabetes, you are at higher risk than others to develop infections and viruses like influenza. If you have diabetes and are over the age of 65, you are at an even greater risk of developing complications. Most people who develop influenza experience cold-like symptoms including fever, cough and general achiness. But those with chronic conditions – such as diabetes – are at higher risk for developing more serious conditions such as pneumonia and bronchitis which could lead to hospitalization or even death. People with diabetes have compromised immune systems which makes it more difficult for the body to fight off infections. There is also the possibility that it will be more difficult to control your blood sugars while having the flu or that lack of appetite from being ill will cause blood sugars to become unstable.

In addition to having the flu vaccine, there are good general health measures that will not only protect you from developing the flu but will help guard against developing other illnesses. These healthy habits include:

  • Washing hands frequently. We all know that we should wash our hands after using the bathroom, coughing or sneezing, and before preparing food. But during flu season it makes sense to wash your hands more frequently or use hand sanitizer especially if you’re in frequent contact with the public.
  • Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing. This isn’t something your mother taught you to be polite. Covering your mouth helps prevent the release of bacteria and viruses into the air where they might be picked up by others. When coughing or sneezing, cough or sneeze into a tissue or if one isn’t available, into your elbow, not into your hand. If you do happen to use your hand, remember to wash immediately.
  • Plan and eat healthy meals using My Plate. Michigan State University Extension also provides good basic information about healthy eating. In addition to eating healthy meals, be sure to drink plenty of fluids including water.
  • Get plenty of rest. If you’re experiencing flu-like symptoms, rest more frequently than usual.
  • If you’re feeling healthy, continue with your physical activity plan. If you haven’t been physically active start by adding a walk to your daily routine.
  • Avoid people who are ill and if you’re experiencing symptoms stay away from others who are healthy.

If in spite of all your precautions you start to develop symptoms of the flu contact your family health care provider immediately. Physicians will know best how to treat and monitor you during your illness including what medications to take or avoid and how best to manage your changing blood sugars.

Staying healthy doesn’t have to be complicated. Get your flu shot and keep practicing those healthy lifestyle habits!

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