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Diabetes Sick-Day Plan: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

If you have diabetes, many other illnesses can make your blood sugar go up. This can be dangerous. When you are sick with the flu or another illness, your body releases hormones to fight infection. These hormones raise blood sugar levels. They also make it hard for insulin or other medicines to lower your blood sugar.

Work with your doctor to make a plan for what to do on days when you are sick.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Work with your doctor to write up a sick-day plan for what to do on days when you are sick. Your blood sugar can go up or down, depending on your illness and whether you can keep food down. Call your doctor when you are sick, to see if you need to adjust your pills or insulin.
  • Write down the diabetes medicines you have been taking and whether you have changed the dose based on your sick-day plan. Have this information ready when you call your doctor or nurse advice line.
  • Eat your normal types and amounts of food. Drink extra fluids, such as water, broth, and fruit juice, to prevent dehydration.
    • If your blood sugar level is higher than the blood sugar level your doctor recommends (for example, above 14.0 millimoles per litre (mmol/L), drink extra liquids that don't contain sugar. Examples are water and sugar-free cola.
    • If you can't eat your usual foods, then drink extra liquids, such as soup, sports drinks, or milk. You may also eat food that is gentle on the stomach. These foods include crackers, gelatin dessert, and applesauce. Try to eat or drink 15 grams of carbohydrates every hour. For example, 6 saltine crackers, 1 cup (250 ml) of milk, and ½ cup (125 ml) of orange juice each contain about 15 grams of carbohydrate.
  • Check your blood sugar at least every 3 to 4 hours. If it goes up fast, check it more often. And check it even through the night. Take insulin if your doctor told you to do so. If you and your doctor didn't have a sick-day plan for taking extra insulin, call your doctor for advice.
  • If you take insulin, check your urine or blood for ketones. This is even more important if your blood sugar is high.
  • Do not take any over-the-counter medicines, such as pain relievers, decongestants, or natural health products, without talking with your doctor first.
  • Do not drive. If you need to see your doctor or go anywhere else, ask a family member or friend to drive you.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You are confused or cannot think clearly.
  • Your blood sugar is very high or very low.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your blood sugar stays outside the level your doctor set for you.
  • You have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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