As the flu season has already begun, healthcare professionals are urging high-risk individuals to get their flu shots as soon as possible. High-risk individuals with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes patients, are at risk for more severe complications from flu than the general public. Thus, we recommend diabetes patients to get vaccinated as early as possible.
2023-2024 influenza vaccine (flu shot and nasal spray) is available. Under the Vaccination Subsidy Scheme (VSS) 2023/24, subsidised seasonal influenza vaccination will be provided to eligible Hong Kong residents.
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Getting vaccinated is beneficial even if you catch the flu. According to the study published in July 2021 in Clinical Infectious Diseases, in 1,670 people with diabetes, the hospitalisation rate in the group who had a flu vaccine was reduced by 46% compared to those who didn't get a flu vaccine. In another study published in 2021 in Vaccine, among people who went to the hospital for the flu, adults who had influenza vaccine had a 26% lower risk of being admitted to the intensive care unit and a 31% lower risk of dying prematurely compared with adults who did not vaccinate.
Tips for the diabetic patient to recover from the flu:
- Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of sugar-free fluids like water.
- Check blood glucose levels more often if taking insulin.
- Be aware of severe low blood glucose episodes (also known as "hypoglycemia"), especially for those who are taking insulin and are not eating regularly.
- Choose sugar-free cough syrup if necessary.
Getting the flu is no fun. The flu stresses out the body, which can cause blood sugar levels to spike out of control. Persistently increased blood sugars may affect the immune system and increase the frequency of flu infections.
Diabetic patients are at higher risk of serious influenza-related complications, hospitalisations or even death. These can include complications such as bronchitis, worsening of chronic heart disease, pneumonia, and sinus and ear infections.
People with diabetes frequently have other chronic diseases, such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), hypertension and renal disease. This puts them at high risk for influenza-related complications or hospitalisation.
Below are the warning signs or symptoms of a medical emergency. If you experience:
- Fainting or passing out
- Severe chest pain
- Breathing difficulty
- Persistent or worsening fever of 101 degrees
- Fahrenheit or higher (or 38.33 degrees Celsius or higher)
- Worsened coughing after five to seven days
- Uncontrollable blood glucose levels
Seasonal influenza vaccines are safe and effective in preventing influenza. Individuals aged 6 months or above (except those with known contraindications) should receive the influenza vaccine to protect themselves against seasonal influenza and its complications.