COVID-19 may thrive in an environment of elevated blood glucose, according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). For this reason, it is important for diabetics to focus on keeping their blood glucose levels stable to enhance their immune system, the IDF stresses.
“Elevated blood glucose reduces the response of the immune system to fight off infections,” noted Dr. Graham Cates, medical director of the Family Medicine Center and co-founder of the Diabetes Education Network. He urged diabetics in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak to pay extra attention to their glucose control, as regular monitoring can help avoid complications caused by high or low blood glucose.
He stressed that for diabetics and anyone in close contact with diabetics, the recommendations being widely issued by the Ministry of Health to the general public on COVID-19 are doubly important.
“If you do show flu-like symptoms, such as raised temperature, cough and difficulty breathing, it is important to consult a healthcare professional. If you are coughing up phlegm, this may indicate an infection so you should seek medical support and treatment immediately.
“Any infection is going to raise your glucose levels and increase your need for fluids, so make sure you can access a sufficient supply of water.”
According to the World Health Organization and the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetics are among those at a higher risk for severe illness and complications related to COVID-19. This is particularly relevant for The Bahamas, which has one of the highest incidences of diabetes in the world. According to the IDF, there are roughly 27,000 diabetics in The Bahamas.
Minister of Health Dr. Duane Sands revealed at the Bahamas Podiatric Medical Association Conference in October last year, that the local prevalence of diabetes rises to almost 19 percent if you include pre-diabetics. During a recent interview with The Nassau Guardian, he stressed that the high rate of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes could result in worse COVID-19 outcomes locally.
“If you look at what we believed we know about COVID-19, the people who do worse are people with comorbidities and non-communicable diseases. The Bahamas is the poster child of non-communicable diseases. We have a high rate of morbid obesity, hypertension and diabetes. You put that together with questionable discipline as it relates to social distancing, and you have the recipe for the perfect storm.”
Dr. Cates provided further tips for diabetics who suspect they are developing COVID-19 symptoms.
If your blood sugar has registered high more than two times in a row, check for ketones to avoid diabetic ketoacidosis, a serious complication that occurs when your body produces high levels of blood acids called ketones.
“Call your doctor’s office immediately, if you have medium or large ketones and if instructed to with trace or small ketones.”
He stressed the importance of drinking lots of fluids. “If you’re having trouble keeping water down, have small sips every 15 minutes or so throughout the day to avoid dehydration. Test your blood sugar often. If you are experiencing low blood sugar, eat 15 grams of simple carbs that are easy to digest and re-check your blood sugar in 15 minutes to make sure your levels are rising. Check your blood sugar extra times throughout the day and night – every 2-3 hours.”