If you suspect that you have caught the flu, it is important to seek treatment immediately. As noted earlier, people with diabetes have a higher risk of potentially dangerous flu complications when they get sick. Along with evaluating your symptoms, your health-care provider may order laboratory tests — usually involving a nasal or throat swab — before deciding what treatment is best for you.
A couple of drugs are widely available to treat the flu (see “Common Drugs to Treat the Flu”). They are most effective if begun within two days of developing flu symptoms — another reason you should not wait before seeing your health-care provider if you believe you might have the flu. Antiviral drugs for the flu are available as pills, in liquid form, and as an inhalable powder. While these drugs will not provide an instant cure for flu symptoms, they can help shorten the time you are ill by one to two days and may help prevent complications such as pneumonia. It is important to note that these drugs are specifically designed to treat the flu; they will not treat any other virus or any bacterial infection, just as an antibiotic cannot treat the flu or any virus. A prescription from your health-care provider is required to obtain antiviral drugs for the flu.
Sometimes antiviral drugs are prescribed to people who have been exposed to the flu virus but have not yet developed any flu symptoms. This can help limit a flu breakout within a community or household. The best way to prevent the flu from spreading, however, is for everyone who is eligible for a flu vaccine to get one — and this applies especially to people with diabetes.
When you have diabetes, there are so many health-related measurements and procedures to pay attention to that adding yet another item to your agenda — even one as small as getting a flu shot — may feel like one too many. But look at the big picture, and remember that avoiding the flu is in your best interest. When you consider that this virus can make you sick for weeks, upset your blood glucose control, and wreak havoc on your daily activities, it becomes clear that an ounce of prevention is far better than a pound of cure. If you haven’t already gotten your flu shot this year, make getting one now a priority. It’s not too late, and it can make a big difference in your ability to stay healthy and do the things that you enjoy this winter and spring.