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Coping with COVID-19 and Diabetes

Diabetes is a widespread concern in our community. This blog by THT Population Health Program Coordinator Renee Kraus, RN, BSN explores the increased  risk COVID-19 poses for persons with diabetes, shares practical advice and helpful resources. 

As the Trenton community confronts the threat of COVID-19, many of our neighbors face increased risk of complications due to diabetes.

More than 13% of adults in Trenton are living with diabetes, according to THT’s 2019 Community Health Needs and Assets Assessment. And while people living with diabetes are not more likely to contract COVID-19, new data released by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that, if infected, they may face worse outcomes. See map of  area diabetes diagnosis

Anyone in a high risk group due to underlying medical conditions needs to be “extremely careful,” according to a report in The Washington Post. For those who do become infected with COVID-19, the threshold for seeking medical attention is lower than the general population.

So if you are living with diabetes, or someone in your home has diabetes, now is the time to take increased precautions to limit exposure to the novel Coronavirus and to manage your diabetes from home. Here are some helpful steps:

Follow general precautions

  • Practice social distancing: do not gather with individuals who live outside your home and stay at least six feet away from people in public
  • Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap, and avoid touching your face
  • Only leave your house when necessary (for example, to get food or medication)

Keep your blood sugar in check

When your blood sugar fluctuates, you are more at risk for general diabetic complications such as heart disease and kidney and nerve damage. If your diabetes is left uncontrolled over time, your body also has a hard time fighting off infections such as COVID-19. Viral infections may also increase internal swelling and inflammation in diabetics, leading to serious complications.

Stay connected with your provider

CALL YOUR DOCTOR if you feel that you are developing any COVID-19 related symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry cough
  • Fever

At this time, many health care providers are “seeing patients” by phone or online for routine telehealth visits. Staying connected to your provider and sharing information about issues you experience is important.

You should continue to take your medications as ordered, and can even have them delivered for free to your door. See our list of Trenton pharmacy hours and delivery options.

Stick to a schedule

Keeping a healthy, active schedule can be challenging when you are sheltering in place.   Consistent sleeping and eating routines are key to maintaining good glycemic control (blood sugar). See our Diabetes Patient Education Booklet — in English and en español

If your schedule has changed over recent weeks, you may see different patterns in your blood sugar readings. Communicate any changes to your providers right away in case they need to adjust your medications. If you are having a difficult time paying for your insulin, visit https://insulinhelp.org/ for immediate assistance.

Manage your stress

Stress also can impact your blood sugar. During this period of uncertainty, remember to take time each day for some activity you enjoy.

Restock your emergency kit

  • Have simple carbohydrates on hand such as soda, sugar, honey, jello, hard candies, etc. Low blood sugar can lead to a serious medical emergency
  • Have at least one week of insulin on hand in case you become sick and cannot refill
  • Ask your provider for extra refills on your prescriptions in case you cannot leave home or receive a delivery
  • Have extra testing supplies like test strips, lancets, rubbing alcohol, and batteries for your glucometer. Don’t forget to have soap at home to wash your hands
  • If possible have Glucagon and ketone strips
  • Have a stock of non-perishable grocery staples in case you cannot leave your home
  • Think of someone you can call if you need help getting your supplies
  • Prepare a list of phone numbers of your doctors, pharmacy, and insurance provider
  • Prepare a list of your medications and doses

Many of us either have diabetes or know a friend or family member with the disease. As we all adjust to the social distancing and sheltering in place needed to diminish the threat of COVID-19, people living with diabetes need to recognize their greater risk of serious complications from the Coronavirus and take steps to remain safe and healthy.

More Resources
The Capital City Diabetes Collaborative (CCDC) is addressing major issues identified with treatment of diabetes in Trenton.
American Diabetes Association information on COVID-19
Centers for Disease Control information on risk of contracting COVID-19 or developing  serious complications
Information for Medicare recipients

Renee joined the Trenton Health Team in December 2018 as a Population Health Program Coordinator. She is passionate about community health education and thrilled to apply her clinical experience in the Trenton community to developing public health programs, further improving the overall culture of health in the capital city.

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