So far, the advice for most people with diabetes when it comes to limiting the risk of developing COVID-19 — the disease caused by the new coronavirus — is to follow guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC also advises people with diabetes to continue taking treatments as prescribed, check blood glucose levels every four hours, and keep at least a two-week supply of diabetes medications and supplies.
But until now, there hasn’t been an accessible, comprehensive guide for people with diabetes about managing their disease during the coronavirus pandemic. That changed on Tuesday, with the release of the CORONAVIRUS + DIABETES guide from JDRF and Beyond Type 1, two leading type 1 diabetes advocacy groups. The guide is available in English, Spanish and Portuguese.
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Type 1 diabetes and coronavirus guidelines
Here are some of the main recommendations from the guide, which is also endorsed by the American Diabetes Association, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists, and other diabetes and health care education and advocacy groups.
Establish and maintain strict personal hygiene.
This includes washing your hands whenever you come into contact with something outside your home, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, not touching your face, and generally acting “as though you have COVID and could pass it on.”
Minimize physical interaction with others.
This means limiting contact with people outside your household, stocking up on essential items to minimize the frequency of shopping or pharmacy trips, and getting routine health care from home through telehealth options when possible.
Minimize risk when out in public.
This includes maintaining a physical distance of at least six feet from others, wearing a cloth mask or face covering, and adjusting your schedule to avoid crowds.
Make work as safe as possible.
It’s best to work from home if you can, and to maintain physical distance from others when possible if you need to be in a workplace. Advocate for flexible rules for high-risk people, like those with diabetes, as physical distance rules are relaxed and the risk of infection at work may grow.
Maximize baseline physical and mental health.
This means not smoking or vaping, exercising in safe areas, and prioritizing rest, good nutrition, adequate hydration, and virtually socializing. If your’e struggling with your mental health, seek help online.
Set yourself up for success with diabetes management.
Key steps include testing blood glucose more frequently, testing for ketones (even if you’re unfamiliar with this), keeping a large stock of diabetes supplies and medications, eating and exercising to support healthy blood glucose levels, staying in touch with your healthcare team virtually, and leaning on the online diabetes community for support as needed.
If you get sick, get treated quickly.
When you’re sick, take your temperature daily, measure your heart rate, don’t stop taking insulin or medications (but adjust insulin doses as needed), and watch out for diabetic ketoacidosis (a life-threatening emergency involving high blood glucose).
The guide’s website also includes a number of special features, such as a toolkit for sharing the recommendations, an article called “Know Your Rights: COVID-19” from the American Diabetes Association, a guide to navigating benefits if you’ve lost your job or health insurance, a fact sheet about diabetes and the coronavirus, and an account of dealing with COVID-19 while living with type 1 diabetes from a survivor. A detailed version of the guide’s main recommendations is available in a PDF format for easy distribution within community or healthcare organizations.
“Not everyone with diabetes faces the same personal risk, but we’re only powerful against coronavirus when we work together,” the guide states in its introduction. “Every action to curb the spread of the virus represents countless infections prevented. We have a simple goal: to tap in to the power of the diabetes community to save lives.”
Want to learn more about coronavirus and diabetes? Read “Coronavirus and Diabetes: What You Need to Know,” “Healthy Eating During Hard Times” and “Avoiding Coronavirus With Diabetes: Stock Up and Stay Home, CDC Says.”