Diabetes

11 October 2017

Why is the flu shot important for diabetics?

It's imperative for diabetics to try and avoid the flu as it makes it more difficult to manage diabetes and increases the risk of complications.

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Flu season might be over in South Africa, but it's still important to take care of your immunity.

And for when flu season rolls around again, doctors are urging particularly people with diabetes to get vaccinated.

Many people with diabetes don't get a seasonal flu shot each year, according to the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE). Some people with the blood sugar disease don't realise they're at risk for flu-related complications. Others have misguided fears that the shot will trigger an adverse reaction, the group explained.

Diabetics prone to complications

People with diabetes are more likely to develop serious flu-related health problems if they get the virus, the AADE cautioned. The group said the flu shot is a safe and effective way to prevent or reduce the severity of these complications.

"Reducing risks is one of the AADE's seven key self-care behaviours for managing diabetes, and getting the flu shot every autumn is an excellent way of reducing the risk of getting sick," certified diabetes educator Evan Sisson said in an AADE news release. "It's widely available, it takes just a few minutes and it can make a real difference in your health."

Good hand hygiene is another important way to stay healthy and hopefully avoid the flu, the diabetes experts noted.

There are several ways a seasonal flu shot can benefit people with diabetes, according to the AADE. These include:

1. Better disease management

The flu and other infections can raise blood sugar levels and disrupt a healthy diet plan. Avoiding the flu can help people with diabetes stay on track and manage their condition.

2. Complication prevention 

People with diabetes are more likely to be hospitalised for flu-related complications, such as pneumonia. They are also more likely to die from the flu.

3. Immune system boost

As people age, their immune system weakens. The flu can tax the immune system, increasing the risk for serious complications and even death. A flu shot can help weakened immune systems ward off the flu. People 65 or older should talk to their doctor to see if the high-dose flu vaccine is right for them.

The AADE added that people who do get the flu should see their doctor right away and discuss the possibility of taking antiviral drugs, which can help speed recovery.

Image credit: iStock 

 

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Diabetes expert

Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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