October is here, and fall is starting to settle in. Here in Massachusetts, the leaves have started to turn their brilliant colors, people are getting ready for Halloween, and yes, Christmas decorations have hit the stores. It’s also Columbus Day weekend, a time of year when I dig out my warmer clothes and do some fall cleaning. The squirrels are scurrying around, burying acorns, preparing for what will probably be a long, cold winter. Do you do anything special this time of year?
One thing that’s important for people with diabetes to do every fall is to get a flu vaccination, or flu shot. My local Walgreens pharmacy is offering flu shots, and I’m sure other pharmacies are, as well. Actually, getting a flu shot is usually recommended for almost everyone, whether a person has diabetes or not. But people with diabetes should be particularly vigilant about getting a flu shot. Here are some facts and figures about the flu and diabetes:
- People with diabetes may be more susceptible to getting the flu. And people with diabetes can often be sicker, and for a longer period of time, if they do catch the flu. Because of this, people with diabetes are six times as likely to be hospitalized with the flu.
- And, not to sound too grim, but people with diabetes are three times as likely to die from flu complications as people without diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
- Having the flu when you have diabetes may mean higher blood glucose levels that can be hard to control. And high blood glucose levels, on top of already not feeling well, can make you feel worse.
- Some people shouldn’t get the flu shot, such as people allergic to eggs, so always check with your health-care provider if you have any doubts about being vaccinated.
- You can’t catch the flu from a flu shot. By the way, a flu shot doesn’t protect you from all strains of flu virus, but it will lessen the chances of you getting the flu from the more prevalent strains.
- Even if you do catch the flu, the vaccination will lessen the likelihood of other complications setting in.
- Medicare Part B covers flu shots, and your physician’s office, local clinic, community health center, and pharmacy offer flu shots at little to no cost.
Symptoms of the flu include:
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
- Dry cough
Make sure you have a sick day plan in place before you get sick; this means that you know what to do with your meal plan and medication when you’re not feeling well. But, as the saying goes, prevention is the best medicine, so get a flu shot every year, wash your hands often (especially before eating), and limit your contact with people who are sick. Encourage your family and people with whom you live to get vaccinated, as well.
As you think about getting a flu shot, think about getting a pneumococcal vaccine or Pneumovax, too. Just like the flu, people with diabetes are more likely to develop pneumonia and suffer serious complications. Pneumonia can result from the flu, and symptoms include fever, cough, fatigue, shallow breathing, and chest wall pain.
Fortunately, the chances of getting pneumonia are greatly reduced as long as you get vaccinated. Unlike the flu vaccine, which is needed every year, you usually only need a Pneumovax once in your lifetime. However, people under the age of 65 who have had a Pneumovax should get another one 5 to 10 years after their first one. Find out if you’ve had a Pneumovax, and if not, talk to your physician about getting one. The pneumonia vaccine is covered by Medicare Part B as well as many other health insurance plans.