It is crucial for people who experience any life-threatening conditions to seek immediate emergency care, even during rare events like the COVID-19 pandemic. For people with diabetes, that may mean going to an emergency department for help to prevent uncontrolled high blood sugar or other serious complications. A lack of blood sugar management and other self-management routines, even for a short time, can have lasting negative consequences for people with diabetes.
The COVID-19 pandemic affected how often people accessed emergency services. One study found that emergency department visits declined 42% during the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. Another study found a 10% decline in visits for a hyperglycemic crisis during the first 10 weeks of the pandemic.
People with diabetes were also less likely to use the regular services they needed to manage their condition during the pandemic. In particular, young adults 18 to 29 reported the largest disruption in access to and use of medical care, including difficulty getting diabetes medications. This age group also reported low engagement in COVID-19 prevention methods, including an intention to get vaccinated.
Diabetes self-care tips
1. Take your medication as directed
False reports have suggested that taking diabetes or high blood pressure medications makes you more susceptible to catching the virus. That’s just not true. If you stop taking prescribed medications, you’re setting yourself up for serious complications. Drinking alcohol or smoking will not kill the virus or protect against it. Both activities lower our immunity and could increase the risk of poor outcomes. And please do not eat, drink, inject, or inhale disinfectants. Cleaning products are designed for external surfaces – not our insides.
Stay active while you are at home
Exercise such as walking and lifting light weights is important to diabetes management. It can help you achieve a healthy weight, which can improve your blood sugar control. Exercise can also reduce your risks for other chronic issues, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
If you have it and you step on an object that cuts your foot, you might not feel it. The cut can fester into an ulcer and lead to a serious infection that can be difficult to control. (This is particularly important now because many of us are staying at home and going barefoot.)
As you’re putting on your walking shoes or getting ready for yoga, look for wounds. If the area is swollen, irritated, or discolored, call the doctor to see what you should do, particularly if the wound doesn’t heal on its own within two weeks.
Third, exercise is great for your mental health. Even light exercises like walking release the body’s “feel-good” hormones called endorphins. Focusing on exercise is also a form of mindfulness, which can help calm the mind and reduce stress.
3. Eat properly and stay hydrated
Managing your nutrition is a balancing act. You need the right amount and right type of carbs to maintain healthy blood sugar levels throughout the day.
Fill your plate with:
- Non-starchy vegetables, such as broccoli, tomatoes, and green beans
- Starchy vegetables such as peas and sweet potatoes
- Fruits, like berries and apples
- Beans (black, kidney, lentils, and chickpeas)
- Whole grains, including brown rice and steel-cut oats
Try to avoid:
- Sweets, like candy and cookies
- Chips and salty snacks
- Juice and soda
- Sugary tea
- White bread
- Processed cereals
- White rice
4. Mind your immunity
While there’s no magic pill to boost immunity, you can make choices each day to improve your health – and thereby improve your immune system.
- Sanitize everyday objects often, including cell phones, tablets, and door handles. These high-touch surfaces can be germ magnets.
- Wash your hands according to the COVID-19 guidelines. Using warm water and soap, wash the fronts and backs of the hands for at least 20 seconds. Make sure you also clean under your nails. You can use a spare toothbrush and soap to gently remove germs hiding there.
- Wear a face mask when running errands. This simple act helps protect you from people who may be infected but not displaying symptoms – in some patients, symptoms don’t appear until 14 days after infection. Since the virus can travel through the air, make sure your mask covers your nose and mouth.
5. Pay attention to your mental health
Stay in touch with the people who care about you, especially during the pandemic. While we can’t be together in person right now, we can use technology like video calling to connect with friends and family.
If you are struggling with low mood, anxiety, or unexplained fatigue, request an appointment to discuss your mental health. Nearly all of our mental health care is available via phone or video visits right now – you can get the help you need from home