By Dr V Mohan, Chairman, Dr. Mohan’s Diabetes Specialities Centre, Chennai
Are people with diabetes more prone to COVID-19?
People with diabetes are indeed prone to all types of infections: bacterial, fungal and even viral. Data from China, Italy etc., suggests that while people with diabetes may not be more prone to COVID-19, they certainly tend to develop more severe forms of disease and more complications and mortality rates are also higher. Hence, people with diabetes should take particular precautions with respect to COVID-19, as they already are in a slightly immuno-compromised state.
What general precautions should be taken to prevent COVID-19 infection?
As with everyone else, it is important to maintain good hygiene, particularly with respect to frequent washing of hands with soap and water and also with a sanitizer, if necessary especially in a health care setting. If someone has a cough, cold or fever, it is better to avoid contact with them. The spread of the virus is known to be through droplet infection. Hence, if somebody with COVID-19 coughs or sneezes, one is likely to catch the infection. One should follow all the usual precautions like wearing a mask is one of the effective ways of preventing the spread of COVID-19 infection. ‘Social Distancing’ i.e. keeping a distance from people who are likely to be infected is a must. I prefer ‘Physical Distancing’ to the term ‘Social Distancing’.
What additional precautions should people with diabetes take?
- It is important to keep your blood sugar levels under good control. Any infection is likely to increase the blood sugar levels and uncontrolled diabetes can further lead to worsening of the infection.
- Increased testing of the blood glucose levels with a Glucometer or Continuous Glucose Monitoring may be necessary.
- If the blood sugar levels are found to go very high, one should consult the doctor and bring the sugars under good control as quickly as possible.
- Unless one has type 1 diabetes or severe insulin-requiring type 2 diabetes, where the sugar levels tend to go very high and signs of ketosis or diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) develop, it is not necessary to get admitted into the hospital just for controlling diabetes.
- Although spreading of the infection through a needle used for blood glucose testing or insulin injections is highly unlikely, it is better not to share your blood testing lancet or insulin needles with anybody else.
- See that the patient follows a strict diet. The amount of carbohydrate (eg., rice or chappathis) should be decreased while the protein intake (preferably from vegetarian sources) should be increased. Intake of green leafy vegetables must also be increased.
- One should exercise regularly.
- Medicines should be taken regularly.
- Sleep on time and sleep for at least 7 hours/day as this also helps to build one’s immunity.
In summary, all people with diabetes should be aware of COVID-19 infection and avoid coming with contact with an infected person and thus prevent developing the infection. Most importantly one should keep diabetes under a good control and seek medical attention as soon as possible in case they develop any symptoms.