Diabetes Forecast

Prepare Now for Sick Days

Take these steps to make sure you’re ready in case of illness


People who get sick with the new coronavirus (COVID-19) are encouraged to isolate themselves for two weeks to prevent spreading the disease to others, including family. That may seem like a long time, but with a little bit of planning, you can spend those 14 days enjoying, say, your favorite TV shows instead of worrying about your diabetes management.

Peace of mind comes from planning ahead. Here’s what you need to do now, while you’re well, to ensure you’re prepared for illness:

1. Assess your medication and supply needs.

You don’t want to be sick and without your meds. Now’s the time to:

  • Make sure your medication supply will last at least a week to 10 days. Ask your pharmacist about filling a 90-day supply so you can make fewer trips to the pharmacy.

    Usually health insurance plans have strict guidelines on when you can refill your medications. If you have a 30-day supply, for instance, you can’t refill it after only a week or two. Thankfully, many insurers have temporarily waived restrictions on early refills of drugs you take daily. So if you have some of your essential medications on hand, but not enough, you can refill now to stock up. Check with your insurance provider.

    Many states have enacted emergency refill policies. For instance, Arizona recently issued an executive order that allows pharmacists to refill prescriptions for up to 180 days without a doctor’s visit. Check your state’s website to see if you can benefit.

  • Arrange to have your meds delivered. That way, you won’t have to leave the house when it’s time to refill. Many pharmacies, including CVS, Walgreens, and some mail-order pharmacies, have temporarily waived home delivery fees, though some areas may experience delivery delays.

  • Stock up. You’ll want these important supplies on hand if you get sick.

  • Check your glucagon kit. Be sure it’s handy and hasn’t expired.

2. Shop now so you don’t have to later.

  • Add simple carbs to your grocery list. Fast-acting glucose products, such as tablets or gels, are best for raising your blood glucose when it’s too low. But you may not feel like those when you’re sick. Stock your kitchen with food sources of sugar, such as regular soda, honey, jam, Jell-O, hard candies, or popsicles.
  • Buy low-sodium broth and saltine crackers in case you’re unable to eat other solids.
  • Look for foods with a longer shelf life to ensure there’s plenty to eat if you’re stuck at home. Frozen fruits and veggies and low-sodium canned goods, for instance, are all good choices.

3. Discuss your sick-day plan with your doctor.

  • Learn when to call your health care provider, such as if you’ve vomited or had diarrhea more than three times in 24 hours, your temperature has been above 101 degrees for more than 24 hours, you’re having a hard time breathing or are extremely tired or dizzy, or your blood glucose remains over 250 mg/dl despite correction doses of insulin.
  • Understand how often you need to check your blood glucose when sick.
  • Learn how to adjust your medications, if needed.
  • Know when and how to check for ketones.
  • Find out which over-the-counter cold and flu medicines are best. Some can raise your blood glucose (so look for sugar free!) and may affect your medications.

4. Plan to nurture your mental health.

  • Work out a system to keep your friends and family informed about your health status.
  • Make arrangements with family or a neighbor to take care of your children or pets.
  • Set up videoconferencing apps such as Skype, FaceTime, and Zoom to connect with friends and family.

If you’re sick, follow these tips for managing diabetes.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your doctor. Many health care providers offer telehealth services so that patients can discuss treatment options without leaving their home.

Medicare has temporarily expanded its telehealth benefits to cover office, hospital, and other health care visits done virtually. Many insurance companies are covering telehealth for in-network providers; call the number on the back of your insurance card to ask if you’re covered. You may be charged a copay for telehealth services, though some providers are reducing or waiving the fee during this state of emergency.

For more information, visit the American Diabetes Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sources: American Diabetes Association; Joslin Diabetes Center; Kathy HoganBruen, PhD, clinical psychologist and founder of District Anxiety Center in Washington, D.C.



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