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Managing diabetes and looking after yourself during the COVID-19 health crisis

Managing diabetes and looking after yourself during the COVID-19 health crisis

We look at the guidance from healthcare professionals and the government to help people with diabetes avoid coronavirus (COVID-19).

Published: Apr 09, 2020
Category: Looking after yourself

COVID-19 (coronavirus) is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways and is caused by a virus called coronavirus.

virus cell

The symptoms of coronavirus are:

  • a cough
  • a high temperature
  • shortness of breath

Although there is no official statement from the NHS on the risk of having the coronavirus (COVID-19) and living with diabetes it is recommended that the same safety precautions are observed as when sick.

Professor Partha Kar, National Specialty Advisor for Diabetes with NHS England

Professor Partha Kar, National Specialty Advisor for Diabetes with NHS England and Consultant in Diabetes and Endocrinology at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “According to current available data, people with diabetes don’t appear to be at a higher risk of developing COVID-19 but if they contract it, the emerging data suggests that having diabetes is a risk factor to developing poorer outcomes.

“Thus, this group has been asked to stay at home, like the rest of the population, unless it is essential for them to continue working. To help reduce the risks, the idea is to try and look after their diabetes as best as possible, along with awareness of sick days rules. It is important to appreciate that the advice is based on data as they become available.”

People living with diabetes who have additional chronic health conditions may be recommended to self-isolate for a period of 12 weeks if they fall into categories outlined in a recently published Department of Health report.

During self-isolation people with diabetes are recommended to attend virtual clinics so they can continue seeking diabetes support from their healthcare teams.

NHS has issued the following recommendations to help prevent the spread of the virus:

How to avoid catching or spreading coronavirus

  • Wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds.
  • Always wash your hands when you get home or into work.
  • Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands when you cough or sneeze).
  • Put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands afterwards.
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.


  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean.


Social distancing – what you need to know

Public Health England has published a range of Coronavirus (COVID-19) public information materials to inform the general public about how they can help protect themselves and others and help prevent the spread of virus.

While aimed at all members of the public, the guidelines are also relevant for people living with diabetes.

Handwashing advice to reduce the spread of COVID-19:

Wash your hands with soap and water more often for 20 seconds following these steps:

1. Palm to palm
2. The backs of hands
3. In between fingers
4. The back of the fingers
5. The thumbs
6. The tips of the fingers

To isolate your household, the advice is to stay at home -

If you or anyone in your household has a high temperature or a new and continuous cough – even if it is mild

  • Everyone in your household must stay at home for 14 days and keep away from others
  • Go to NHS.UK to check your symptoms and follow the specialist medical advice. Only call NHS 111 if you cannot get online or your symptoms worsen
  • Protect older people and those with existing health conditions by avoiding contact
  • Put a sign in your door advising others Please DO NOT enter this building

If you need medical help or have a query regarding the virus, the NHS 111 has an online coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and advise you what to do.

Use this service if you think you might have coronavirus, have been to a country or area with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days

(see NHS coronavirus advice for travellers), or if you have been in close contact with someone diagnosed with coronavirus.

Use the 111 coronavirus service here

Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Call 111 if you need to speak to someone.

If there is a chance you could have coronavirus, you may be asked to stay away from other people (self-isolate) for up to 14 days.


Top tips to manage diabetes when you are ill – Summary

  • Produce an illness management plan with your diabetes or usual healthcare team early.
  • Have your flu jab when advised.
  • Avoid dehydration - keep up your fluid intake, get help early if you cannot. Check blood glucose levels every 2-4 hours.
  • Seek help promptly if unable to self-manage your illness, particularly with rising blood glucose levels.
  • Seek medical help urgently if you feel ill, abnormally drowsy, short of breath, have pain or prolonged vomiting.
  • With type 1 diabetes, never stop insulin during acute illness.
  • In type 1 diabetes, test for blood or urine ketones every 2-4 hours and if positive, consider taking additional insulin.
  • Seek help for suspected skin or foot infections early. (from the DRWF leaflet Managing diabetes when you are ill version 7.0)


Educational course for people with type 2 diabetes available for free during COVID-19 lockdown

Self-management advice for people with type 2 diabetes available for free

With many people staying at home during the COVID-19 crisis, access to the DESMOND (Diabetes Education and Self-Management for Ongoing and Diagnosed) programme’s online educational course is currently available for free.

To gain access to the course email with your name, email, postcode, county and NHS Number (if you have one).

NVCO asks for urgent financial support for charities during COVID-19

DRWF operations during the COVID-19 health crisis

The DRWF team is now working remotely. COVID-19 guidance, particularly where it aligns or impacts with diabetes guidance, is shared as quickly as possible through the DRWF website and social media channels with the aim of making it as easy to understand as possible and a reliable source of latest news.

For latest update follow DRWF on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter

To receive the charity’s latest bulletins as they become available, please sign up here

Listen to the DRWF Podcast Focus on COVID-19 and diabetes here

Read Healthcare professionals recommendations for people with diabetes during the COVID-19 crisis
Read Washing your hands and home isolation advice from Public Health England to help prevent the spread of COVID-19

Read Living with diabetes during the COVID-19 health crisis and managing the condition during self-isolation

Category: Looking after yourself

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