No, I’m not mad at anyone. It’s just a play on words to illustrate the topic of today’s post. Today, I want to talk about how to deal with common illnesses when you have Type-1 Diabetes. First and foremost, no illness is ever common when you are Diabetic. Especially in light of the fact that our lovely immune system tends to catch each and every little bug that happens to float on by. Thank you very much, random person on the bus who sneezed in my direction… But for the sake of clarity, I’m referring to the common cold, the flu, maybe pneumonia and lovely conditions like chicken pox.
Being sick when you have Diabetes is a special kind of hell, because any illness you get is likely to aggravate your condition. Or your condition may be responsible for catching whatever it is you have, which is TOTALLY icing on the cake. As a child, I would get ill at the drop of a pin. Although back then, my blood sugars were very poorly controlled, I suffered through a number of comas and my immune system was about as flimsy as parchment paper stretched over too large an area. So it stands to reason that viruses would choose to set up shop in my body; my immune system made for a pretty poor bouncer.
I used past tens on that last sentence because honestly, over the past two decades, I’ve managed to gain some augury of control over the illnesses that decide to storm my beach front. It hasn’t been easy; there’s a lot of hands-on involvement that goes into something as simple as trying NOT to catch a cold. Having Type-1 Diabetes complicates everything, as I’m sure I don’t have to explain to any of my Dia-brothers or sisters. But here are the issues I’ve noticed that are aggravated by Diabetes, as it relates to illness:
- You Dehydrate WAY Easier… As a child, into my teens and even into my twenties, I would usually experience at least three or four instances a year, where I would need to be rushed to the hospital and hooked up to an IV drip to rehydrate. This was regardless of how much water I consumed and let’s remember that prior to my early 20’s, I hadn’t EVER consumed caffeine or alcohol. Anytime I caught an illness as simple as a common cold, it was almost a guarantee that I would be hospitalized due to dehydration. Lovely, right?
- Your Blood Sugars Decide To Screw You Over Completely… I can’t stress how this one is likely the biggest problem. On the one side, you may be nauseous and unable to eat, but have no choice but to attempt to do so, as Diabetics can’t go days without nutrition the way a normal person could, provided they have adequate fluids. The balance of carbohydrates and insulin need to be closely controlled, although there was no such control in the 80’s and 90’s before I took a firm control of myself. On the flip side, various medications and treatments for almost any ailment would usually make my blood sugars skyrocket, pushing me towards my lovely arch-nemesis Diabetic KetoAcidosis.
- You Can’t Heal Worth A Shit… I’m sure you’ve heard that Diabetics have difficulties healing wounds on their feet and extremities. This is usually because of poor blood circulation to those extremities. But the reality is that healing in general is complicated issue for Type-1 Diabetics, especially if their blood sugars aren’t well controlled for whatever given reason. I caught the chicken pox when I was in my 20’s. Yeah. Splendid. I have worse scars because the bastards wouldn’t heal. I have a lovely one, right at my hairline. A result of it tearing and the pus drying against my hair, followed by the scab getting torn off when I combed my hair.
Luckily, over the years I’ve become adept at consuming a non-stop flow of fluids, making point #1 moot. I also have a much better control over my blood sugars and thanks to my insulin pump (when I’m actually able to afford CGM), I keep my levels within range almost constantly, with some occasional exceptions. The key is knowing one’s body. Besides keeping fast-acting glucose at hand, one should also consider keeping plenty of fluid-based electrolytes on hand, in the event of dehydration. Recognize the signs of illness and be prepared for them. Test your blood sugar frequently to ensure you’re staying within levels.
Getting ill sucks, no matter who you are. But it can be all the more annoying (and dangerous) when it’s aggravated by a condition like Diabetes. Knowledge and preparation can help prepare you and save you some visits to the ER, especially in light of the current state of the world. ☯️