Covid-19 and diabetes: Minimising your risk of infection

diabetic having blood sugar tested

We all know by now that people with comorbidities such as diabetes are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill should they become infected. In more severe cases where help isn't immediately available, and if the patient's symptoms - both that of diabetes and Covid-19 - isn't properly managed, death is a real possibility.

Something that isn't covered a lot though is how diabetics can minimise their risk of becoming seriously ill with Covid-19 which, to date, has resulted in more than 850 thousand deaths globally.

According to the CDC, there are two reasons why diabetic patients are at a higher risk.

Firstly, because the immune system is compromised it makes it harder for your body to fight the virus which likely leads to a longer recovery period. And secondly, the virus may thrive in an environment of elevated blood glucose.

We're here to help though, these preventative steps aren't that different from those we should all be taking anyway to prevent being infected.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly.
  • Try to avoid touching your face before you have washed and dried your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect any objects and surfaces that are touched frequently.
  • Don’t share food, glasses, towels, tools etc.
  • When you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or use the crook of your arm if you don’t have a tissue on hand (dispose of it as soon as possible after use).
  • Try to avoid contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing.
  • Think about what changes you can make to help protect yourself and your loved ones. For example, can you avoid unnecessary business travel? Can you avoid large gatherings? Can you avoid public transport?
  • If you are ill with flu-like symptoms, stay at home.


If you, a diabetic, becomes infected, this is what you should do:

  • Continue taking your diabetes medication and insulin as usual.
  • Frequently test your blood sugar levels and keep track of the results.
  • Make sure that you have at least a 30-day supply of your diabetes medicines, including insulin (ask your pharmacist about this)
  • Follow your healthcare provider’s directions if you start feeling sick.
  • Stay in touch with your doctor if you have concerns about your condition.
If someone isn't available to speak to, contact the dedicated Covid-19 Public Hotline on 0800 029 999 for advice on what you can do.


 FYI: What your Blood sugar levels should be -

  • The normal fasting blood sugar range for a non-diabetic person is 70 to 99 milligrams per decilitre (3.9 to 5.5 millimoles per litre).
  • A diabetic patient, on the other hand, can expect their sugar levels to be around 126 mg/dL (7.0 mmol/L) or higher.
If you do get sick, research shows that a diabetic patient’s blood glucose levels may become hard to manage. 
One of the reasons for this seems to be that you may not be able to eat or drink as much as usual while you are sick, which can negatively affect blood sugar levels.

Make sure you have enough of the following supplies at home:



  • Medicine to control diarrhoea and vomiting
  • An antacid
  • Pain reliever
  • Thermometer
  • At least a 30-day supply of your chronic medication


  • Energy drinks that contain electrolytes
  • Fruit juice
  • Canned soup
  • Soft drinks such as Coke which contain a lot of sugar.
  • Cereal
  • Crackers, and
  • Instant pudding


How to manage your diabetes in general:

Everyone is different meaning that and no two people with diabetes are the same. Keeping this in mind, the type of diabetes a person has determines what they should focus on more.

  • Give priority to foods with a low glycemic index (e.g. vegetables, whole wheat pasta/noodles)
  • Avoid excessive consumption of fried foods
  • Limit consumption of foods high in sugar, carbohydrates and fat
  • Choose lean proteins (e.g. fish, meat, eggs, milk, beans after fully cooked).
  • Eat green, leafy vegetables
  • Eat fruits in two or three servings

Foods to avoid

According to the Mayo Clinic, Diabetes increases your risk of heart disease and stroke by accelerating the development of clogged and hardened arteries.

That's why foods containing the following components must be avoided.

  • Saturated fats: Avoid high-fat dairy products and animal proteins such as butter, beef, sausage and bacon. Also, limit coconut and palm kernel oils.
  • Trans fats: Avoid trans fats found in processed snacks and baked goods.
  • Cholesterol: Cholesterol sources include high-fat dairy products and high-fat animal proteins, egg yolks, liver, and other organ meats.TIP: Aim for no more than 200 milligrams (mg) of cholesterol a day.
  • Sodium: Aim for less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day. Your doctor may suggest you aim for even less if you also suffer from high blood pressure.
Watch this video for more information on how diabetics can minimise their risk of becoming severely ill should they contract the virus.
COVID-19 and diabetes: Q&A with IDF President



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