I was thinking recently, about how it always seems that I get sick during the winter. And I suppose that makes sense, right? Colder weather, differences in atmospheric pressure and going from hot to cold constantly when one goes inside to outside or vice versa, all tend to wreak havoc on a person’s immune system. And I don’t need to tell you that a Type-1 Diabetic’s immune system isn’t all fun and games to start with, right? If it weren’t for issues with my good ol’ immune system, I wouldn’t be T1D to start with.
Last weekend, I started to feel that familiar yet unwanted tickle at the back of my throat. You know the one; a mild itch that makes you think you’re going to cough but it never quite comes out? Combined with my sinuses thinking that it would be a good idea to coat all the interior surfaces of my throat, it was a clear indication of what I already suspected; I was getting sick!
I should start by pointing out that contrary to most jokes and memes one can find online, I don’t do “man flu!” That is to say, I don’t crumple into a disgusting pile of self-pity as soon as my nose gets stuffed up or I have a few body aches. Considering the life I’ve had, if that was all it took to incapacitate me, I‘d be dead by now. I know that there’s a running joke that guys turn into big babies when they’re sick. And perhaps that’s true for some. But I wasn’t forged that way.
Last Saturday was a break day for me, having done a free-weight workout the day before and feeling some of the stiffness in my arms and shoulders. With the exceptions of some mild stretching to keep from seizing up, a Costco run with the entire family was all the workout I needed for the day. But on Sunday, maybe against good judgement, I still ran my 12k at the gym while wearing my sauna suit. I came out of that workout flushed, sweaty and exhausted but I assumed it was no different than my average runs. I was wrong.
By the evening, I was stuffy, raspy and sounded like something out of a bad horror movie. My wife wasn’t feeling great either, so we opted for an early bedtime to get some rest. Turns out that my Diabetic system had some different ideas. By the time midnight had rolled around, my blood sugar was SO LOW that my sensor couldn’t even register a reading other than “LO.” Since I felt like proverbial shit, I staggered to the kitchen where I carbo-loaded like it was going out of style.
Once I sprawled back in bed, playing the fun game of “too hot, too cold,” I finally drifted off to a fitful and shallow sleep. I awoke at about 4 am to found that my blood sugars had sling-shot in the opposite direction and I was sitting at 18.0 mmol/L! Considering I didn’t think I had eaten THAT much, was this MY bad, or was it the illness playing rollercoaster tycoon with my blood sugar levels. I’ll never know… I adjusted my insulin levels to compensate and fell asleep for another hour before waking up for work.
It shouldn’t be all that surprising, and if I’m being honest, I don’t like the way my posts often sound like I’m whining and complaining about all the issues associated with Type-1 Diabetes. But the unfortunate truth is that something as simple as getting the common cold can completely throw off the delicate balance that a properly controlled Diabetic may have been working on for months. It can be frustrating, more so on the Diabetic front than catching the cold itself.
There are a couple of important aspects to bear in mind as it relates to getting sick with Diabetes. The first one is hydration. You think you’re prone to dehydration now? Catch a cold and see how long it takes T1D to dry you out like an autumn leaf! That’s why it’s important to maintain a steady flow of liquids while you recover from whatever you may have caught. You want to avoid drinks that will do more harm than good, like alcohol or coffee. Yes, I know… That last one actually had to be forced out, but coffee is a diuretic and will contribute to dehydration.
The next is steady monitoring of your blood sugar levels. And I can’t stress this one enough. What’s worse for me right now is that I currently can’t afford CGM and am using Freestyle Libre. For those who may not be in the know, the difference is that CGM will check my glucose levels and communicate with my pump to make micro adjustments that help to keep my blood sugars in range. The Libre requires me to physically check my levels with a phone app (I try to get at it once an hour) and physically determine what insulin levels I may require in order to correct.
A slight inconvenience and if you’re T1D and using neither of these options, I think we can agree that poking your finger for a traditional blood glucose check every hour can be tedious. But it’s better than the alternative of potentially dropping to a dangerously low level or slipping into DKA for being too high. Last but not least, if you’re illness causes you to lack an appetite, be prepared to force the calories in, in some way, shape or form. Whether you have broth and dry crackers or something small, your nutrition needs to be maintained for faster recovery and continued health. Stay healthy! ☯️