All the big headlines over the last few months have been about COVID-19. Everywhere, every day, every news outlet. It really is a major disaster, affecting not only our country, but the entire globe, leaving many people all over the world feeling stressed. Staying informed can relieve some of this stress, and it’s crucial for everyone, including people with diabetes, to learn how to be prepared and how to protect ourselves and others during this pandemic.
We’ve put together a series of blogs to help ease your mind at this difficult time, with some tips on how to stay healthy, what your workplace rights are, and how to look after diabetes care during the crisis. In the first piece, we’ll tackle some of the basics.
What is COVID-19?
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that’s caused by a new virus that has not been seen in humans before.
How does COVID-19 spread?
Since the virus is new, we’re continuing to learn about how it spreads. According to information from the CDC, the virus is mainly spread from person to person, very easily. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, respiratory droplets can be spread to others who are in close contact, to as far as about six feet!
These droplets can also land on surfaces such as door knobs, coffee tables, and store shelves. If a person touches a surface with the virus on it, then touches their nose, mouth, or eyes, this person may also contract the virus.
Some new studies have also found that individuals can have the virus and still spread it, but not show any symptoms, which makes it all the more dangerous and important to halt the spread as best we can. For more detailed and updated information about how the virus spreads, refer to the CDC website.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The common symptoms of COVID-19 can include a fever, cough, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, chills or shaking with chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache, and new loss of smell or taste, and may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. However, as mentioned above, some may have the virus and not show any symptoms at all. If you feel that you are developing any symptoms of COVID-19, you need to call your doctor. In severe situations, some patients can develop pneumonia, at which point the disease can be fatal. There are certain warning signs you should watch out for, as they indicate you should receive immediate medical attention.
Is there a treatment or vaccine?
Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent us from getting COVID-19. In terms of treatment, there are no medications specifically approved for treating it either, but scientists across the world are working tirelessly to find a cure. Depending on the severity of the illness, some people with COVID-19 will be advised to stay at home to rest and self-isolate, while some may need to be hospitalized for more attentive medical care. While there is currently no treatment targeting the actual virus itself, there are medications you can take to help relieve some of the symptoms. Check with your healthcare providers about this.
Are people with diabetes more likely to get COVID-19?
We don’t have enough research yet to know if people with diabetes are more likely to catch COVID-19 than the average person. However, if they do catch the virus, research and experts tell us that those with diabetes are more at risk of having worse outcomes. For people with multiple health conditions, it’s believed that the risk of serious complications is even higher.
Although people with diabetes have a greater chance of developing serious complications from the virus, for those who manage their diabetes well, the risk of getting seriously ill will likely be lower.
If your diabetes is not very well-managed, or for those with diabetes and other medical conditions like heart disease, you’d be more at risk of developing serious complications from the coronavirus. High blood glucose can lead to inflammation in the body, and viral infections like COVID-19 can also increase inflammation.
Both can play a role in those more severe complications developing.
The elderly and people with other pre-existing medical conditions may also be at a greater risk of developing serious complications upon contracting the virus. For more information about populations at greater risk, visit this CDC webpage.
What should I do to protect myself?
The best way to protect yourself is to reduce your exposure to the virus. Below are some tips you can adopt to reduce your risk of exposure.
-Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
-Wash your hands often with soap and water. Be sure to wash them for at least 20 seconds. This is especially important after you’ve been in public spaces, and after you sneeze, cough, or blow your nose.
-Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol to clean your hands if proper handwashing can’t be done. When using hand sanitizer, make sure to fully coat your hands and rub them together until dry.
- Avoid touching surfaces in public areas. Wash your hands if you do.
-Clean and disinfect the areas in your home that are frequently touched.
-Avoid crowds and all non-essential travel. Stay at home as much as possible. If you really need to go out, practice social distancing by staying at least six feet away from other people.
What should I do to protect others?
We can all take some important steps to prevent the spread of the virus as much as we can. Some of the precautions to protect others from catching the virus include the following:
-When you cough or sneeze, be sure to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. You can also use the inside of your elbow if you can’t find a tissue.
-Dispose of used tissues in the trash, and wash your hands with soap and water right away. Make sure to follow the proper hand washing guidelines.
-When you need to go out in public, wear a cloth face covering that goes over your nose and mouth, in addition to practicing social distancing.
- If you’re sick, make sure your face is covered with a mask or a cloth. Stay at home all the time, and only leave to get medical care.
Are you prepared?
People with diabetes will need a plan in place to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic. Make sure you have:
-Enough household items and groceries.
-Enough diabetes supplies such as your test strips, syringes, ketone strips, glucagon, and supplies for your CGM and pump.
-Enough medications and insulin. You should have a supply that will last at least two weeks. Check with your doctor, pharmacy or insurer to see if you can get extra refills or have your diabetes supplies delivered to your house.
-Simple carbs like glucose tablets, glucose gel, regular soda, and hard candies in case you have a drop in blood sugar.
- Thermometer and over the counter medications approved by doctors (such as fever reducer, anti-diarrhea, and cough or cold medications).
-A plan for who will care for you if you or your caregiver gets sick.
-A list of phone numbers of your healthcare team, pharmacy, insurance company, and close family members in case you get sick or need help.
-A list of all the medications and supplements you are taking. If you get sick, you can show the list to the medical providers.
We hope you find this article resourceful and helpful to get some basic understanding of COVID-19. Note that the COVID-19 guidelines and official recommendations have been quickly evolving, so please refer to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, American Diabetes Association, USDA Food and Drug Administration, and World Health Organization websites for the most up to date information. The next article in our series on the pandemic will discuss some guidelines on how to cope with sick days during this time. Take care, and we wish you all good health!
Main Photo Credit: Zigres/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: G-Stock Studio/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: FamVeld /shutterstock.com; Fourth Photo Credit: Kristen Prahl/shutterstock.com