Diabetes and the Flu: What You Need to Know


There are more than 18.8 million people diagnosed with diabetes in the United States, including almost 11 million people aged 65 years and older (CDC, 2011). Diabetics are more susceptible to other illnesses and can have worse prognosis if acquiring the illness. Examples are influenza and pneumonia; diabetics are more likely to die from these illnesses than people who do not have diabetes (CDC, 2011).

116482902We are now in the beginning of flu season, and today is World Diabetes Day. So it’s the perfect time to focus influenza and pneumococcal immunizations with all patients and staff, including the high-risk population of diabetics. The CDC has a web page dedicated to Diabetes & the Flu.

Diabetes & Flu Facts

  • Diabetics have a higher risk of contracting the flu
    • Weakened immune system lowers ability to fight the flu
    • Influenza vaccine is the most effective way to prevent the flu
      • Nasal spray is NOT safe for diabetics; they should receive injections (see below)
      • Influenza injections are approved for healthy people older than 6 months and people with chronic health conditions (Flu.gov, 2013)
      • Influenza mist is only approved for healthy people ages 18-64 (Flu.gov,
      • Pneumococcal vaccine need should be discussed with primary practitioner
      • Everyday steps to prevent spreading germs:
        • Regular and thorough handwashing
        • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
        • Avoid close contact with sick people
        • Follow good health habits (eat right and get plenty of sleep and exercise)
        • Cover your nose and mouth with tissue when coughing or sneezing; discard tissue afterward
        • Stay home with flu-like illness until at least 24 hours after fever is gone without use of fever-reducing medications

Source: CDC

What to do if a Diabetic Gets the Flu

DMflu_patientsheet2Click here for a 2-page patient education sheet for diabetics that you can use as a handout for your agency. It is an editable Word document; feel free to add your logo or change the color scheme. The education sheet includes the following information:

  • Information on Diabetes and the Flu
  • Prevention
  • What to do when getting the flu
  • Flu Symptoms
  • Sick Day Guidelines for People with Diabetes

Additional Resource

The Vaccinations for Adults with Diabetes tool in Immunization and Infection Prevention BPIP (p. 29 and posted separately with Immunization Resources) lists 10 different vaccinations and information for diabetics.

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