Type 2 diabetes: how to prevent hypos
Here at Better Living, we believe that ‘prevention is better than cure’, so here’s a guide that we hope will help you avoid having a hypo.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grip the world, scientists and researchers are learning more every day about the virus and its effects on the human body.
The diabetes community might have some very specific questions and concerns around how the virus might impact them. All these concerns are valid – and we will try to address some of them in this article, but remember to consult your healthcare professional with any specific questions.
This is a worrying time. However, it’s important to remember that the overall number of cases continues to decrease, and governments and healthcare professionals across the world are beginning to take control of this dangerous disease.
It’s important to remember that if you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes you are no more likely to become infected with COVID-19 than anyone without the disease. However, having diabetes often means your immune system is not as strong at fighting infections as someone without the disease, which may mean you suffer more if you contract it. Many people living with diabetes face additional complications and have other risk factors relating to their heart and kidneys, and the virus can lead to additional problems arising with these organs, even in otherwise healthy adults.
In addition, being ill can make your blood sugar fluctuate as your body works overtime to try to fight the illness by releasing stored glucose (sugar) into your bloodstream. This means you’re more at risk of having serious blood sugar lows or highs, the latter potentially leading to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).
DKA is the process which occurs when the body lacks insulin and is unable to use blood sugar (otherwise known as blood glucose) for energy, and instead begins to use the stores of fat in the body. This process releases a chemical called ketones, which if left unchecked can increase the acidity of your bloodstream. Signs that DKA is occurring in your body include high blood sugar levels, an increase in thirst, confusion, an increase in tiredness and a feeling of being sick.
However, despite the dangers of COVID-19, it is important to remember that for many people COVID-19 is only a mild illness and shares many traits with the common flu, meaning it will pass after a few days. If you do become ill, then you should remember the Diabetes Sick Day Rules:
COVID-19 can be asymptomatic (show no symptoms) and most people who get it will only suffer from mild symptoms if any at all. However, some people can feel very unwell and require medical attention. The NHS and the UK Government have issued a checklist of symptoms to look out for:
If you have noticed any symptoms of the coronavirus, however mild they might be, it is important that you follow the UK guidelines. This means:
There is currently no vaccine for the coronavirus, which means that for the moment the focus is on reducing the spread of the disease and keeping the ‘R’ rate below 1. This R-value is the average number of people that an infected person passes the disease on to. Keeping the R-value below one, therefore, reduces the spread and keeps it under control; ensuring our hospitals and medical services are not overwhelmed.
We can all help to reduce the spread. Even as some lockdown measures are eased, it is important that you continue to follow the social distancing measures that the government has outlined.
People with type 2 diabetes or those classed as ‘vulnerable’ should try to prevent themselves from coming into contact with the virus – by staying at home as much as possible and, if you do go out, take particular care to minimise contact with others outside your household. Currently, people living with diabetes are not on the list of vulnerable people. If you suffer from Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes (or gestational diabetes), then you should still try to reduce your exposure to the outside world as much as possible.
If you are someone living with diabetes, you should ensure that you have adequate supplies of your glucose testing equipment and ketone testing strips if needed. Many shops and chemists are unusually busy and so having a suitable level of supplies at home will ensure that you can reduce the number of times you need to go outside.
You should keep around a month’s worth of insulin and/or diabetes medicine, but there is no need to stockpile any more than that. The government and healthcare industry are working hard to maintain supplies and stockpiling unnecessary medicine and equipment will place additional pressure onto these supply chains and potentially prevent someone who really needs that medicine from receiving it.
Although hospitals are still operating as normal for emergencies, most of them have currently cancelled any routine appointments (such as your annual diabetes review). Things are slowly returning to normal, but until they do then regularly monitoring your blood glucose levels and sticking to a healthy diet, whilst undertaking regular exercise, can help to keep you in check.
The current pandemic is a worrying time for many people, and it is entirely normal to feel anxious. But if you’re feeling overwhelmed, do not keep it to yourself – speak to your family and friends, your healthcare professional, or to the many charities and organisations available to help you.