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How Coronavirus can affect people with diabetes

November marks diabetes awareness month and to raise awareness local charity Diabetes Gibraltar has written articles highlighting the symptoms, treatment and stories of those living with diabetes. The articles will run weekly on Fridays throughout the month of November.

If you have diabetes – regardless of what type you have – you are no more likely to catch coronavirus than anyone else. The majority of people who do get coronavirus – whether they have diabetes or not – will have mild symptoms and do not need to go into hospital.

However, anyone with diabetes, including those with type 1, type 2, gestational and other types, are more vulnerable to developing a severe illness if they do get coronavirus, but the way it affects can vary from person to person.

In children with Type 1, the risk of becoming seriously ill with coronavirus is very low.

For most adults, coronavirus is a mild illness. However, some people develop a more serious illness and sadly could die.

Research shows that there are certain risk factors that make people with diabetes at higher risk:
• Being older. Increased age makes the person more vulnerable to disease complications.
• Having a high hba1c. A high 3-month average blood sugar control indicates that the diabetes is uncontrolled. Making the person at risk of cardiovascular complications, infections, and increased mortality.
• Raised BMI. Obesity increases the risk of uncontrolled diabetes, metabolic diseases, cardiovascular complications, and early death.
• Ethnicity. Certain ethnic minority groups are more vulnerable such as South Asian, people of colour, and mixed ethnic groups.

The relationship between illness and diabetes
Being ill can make your blood sugar go all over the place. Your body tries to fight the illness by releasing stored glucose (sugar) into your blood stream to give you energy. But your body cannot produce enough or any insulin to cope with this, so your blood sugars rise.

Your body is working overtime to fight the illness, making it harder to manage your diabetes. This means you are more at risk of having serious blood sugar highs and lows, potentially leading to DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis) or HHS (hyperosmolar hyperglycaemic state).

Getting the coronavirus vaccine and booster
The most important way people living with diabetes can lower their risk of becoming seriously ill from coronavirus is to avoid catching the virus in the first place. A vaccine is the most effective way to prevent infection and that is why we strongly encourage you to get the vaccines and booster when you’re offered it. The booster vaccination programme is now in place for all people over 50 and people aged over 16 with a health condition that puts them at high risk from Covid-19.

Managing your blood glucose (sugar) levels
Research has shown that having a high HbA1c can increase your risk of becoming seriously ill from coronavirus. It is important to work with your diabetes team to try to bring your blood sugar levels to a healthy range.

Face masks and coverings
Diabetes UK supports the continued wearing of face masks. Wearing a mask helps keep you and others safe and is a simple way to reduce the risk to clinically extremely vulnerable people as they go about their lives.

With coronavirus cases on the rise, it is important that all of us do our bit to help the most vulnerable people in our society stay safe and well.

A legal requirement to wear a face covering in certain settings remains in place in Gibraltar. Government has allowed for masks not to be worn in open spaces but must still be worn on public transport and in shops and hospitality venues as well as health care environments.

Wearing a mask can take some getting used to and can feel very strange at first. Some people have reported that wearing a mask makes them feel anxious or find it hard to breathe. There are lots of different masks out there so try to find one that suits you best. You also could try wearing it around the house for a bit, to get used to breathing in it and moving about while it is on.

If you get coronavirus
If you do get coronavirus it is really important that you follow the diabetes sick day rules. This will help you to keep your blood sugars in range as much as possible, so you can stay well and fight the virus.

Contact the GHA diabetes team for advice. Call 56001534.
Links that are useful to gain guidance from:
https://www.diabetes.org.uk/Guide-to-diabetes/Life-with-diabetes/Illness#Illness
https://learningzone.diabetes.org.uk/
https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/managing-your-diabetes/staying-home

Some people are being treated for coronavirus with a steroid called dexamethasone, which can make your blood sugars go high. Find out more about the steroid dexamethasone and diabetes:
https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/life-with-diabetes/illness#steroids

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