Managing Diabetes when You are Sick


With cold and flu season upon us, it is fitting that our diabetes tip of the month focus on managing diabetes while sick. Colds, the flu or other infections can happen any time. When they do, you may not feel like eating or drinking. This can cause very low blood sugar. On the other hand, your body is under stress which can make your blood sugar too high. This can make it pretty tricky to manage your diabetes while ill.

The tips listed below can be very helpful, but it is important that you discuss a sick day plan with your care providers.

  1. Check your blood sugar more often. This can be anywhere from every 2-4 hours to 2-4 times a day depending on which medications you take.

  2. You may need to keep taking your medications, even if you aren’t eating. Your healthcare provider can help you make a plan as to which medications to continue and how to adjust your insulin when you are sick.

  3. It is important to stay hydrated. A good rule is to drink at least one glass of liquid every hour while you are awake. If you are vomiting, try to take small sips of liquid every 15 minutes. It is also important to be mindful of what you are eating and drinking.

  • If your blood sugar is high, try to drink and eat things without sugar like water, tea, diet drinks, ice chips, and sugar-free Jell-O or pudding.

  • If your blood sugar is low, eat and drink things with sugar such as ½ cup of fruit juice, ½ cup of regular soda, ½ cup of regular Jell-O, an ice pop, saltines, milk, noodles, rice or mashed potatoes.

  1. Know when to call your healthcare provider.

  • If you have a fever of 100°F or higher for a couple days and you aren’t getting any better.


  • If you are vomiting or having diarrhea for more than 6 hours. 


  • If you have moderate to large amounts of ketones in your urine.

  • If your blood sugar is more than 250 mg/dL for more than a day, despite taking your diabetes medications.


  • If you have stomach pain or fruity smelling breath, your chest hurts, you have trouble breathing, or you are dehydrated (lips or tongue are dry and cracked, no urination in several hours).

  • If you aren’t certain what to do to take care of yourself.

  1. Be aware that some cough and cold medicines contain a lot of sugar, which could account for high blood sugar. Talk to your pharmacist about sugar-free options.

North Arkansas Regional Medical Center (NARMC) is here for you and your family whenever you need us. If you need a physician after normal business hours, contact Mediquick at 870-741-2500. NARMC’s Emergency Department never closes and is here to care for you and your family!

The Best in Care

Close to Home

  • Grey Facebook Icon

Follow Us!

No information or content on this website is to be taken as implicit or explicit advice. Please contact a medical professional for guidance.

Photos on this website are provided by Vowell Publishing, Inc. and NARMC.