Winter conditions can be very bad for your health, especially if you’re living with diabetes. That’s why you really need to get your free flu jab (also known as flu vaccine) before winter starts.
The flu jab is one of your 15 Healthcare Essentials. These are essential checks and services that every person with diabetes deserves and should expect.
We’ve put this information together in a guide to help you avoid flu, as part of Public Health England’s Stay Well This Winter campaign.
Why you should get the jab
Anyone with diabetes, including those who are pregnant, should get a jab against flu. This is because people with diabetes are more at risk of getting the flu and having diabetes will make it worse.
Flu is serious, and can make your blood sugar go all over the place. If your blood sugar isn’t within target, the effects of flu can be dragged out and increase your risk of developing serious complications. Getting a flu jab will help you avoid this.
A vaccine protects you against the most common types of flu currently around. As this changes each year, it means you need a new jab each year too.
The jab itself won’t give you the flu. But after you have the jab, it can take about two weeks to work so you may still get the flu. That’s why it’s good to get the jab as soon as you can.
What you should be aware of
You need to be aware of the following:
- If you have an illness or infection and you feel like you have a fever, don’t get the flu jab. Wait until you’re better or speak to a healthcare professional about when to have it.
- If you’ve had a serious reaction to a flu jab in the past, tell the nurse and they will give you a different jab – don’t just go without it.
- The jab is made using eggs, but if you’re allergic to eggs, you can get an ‘egg-free’ jab. Your healthcare professional can help you find out more about this.
Possible side effects
After any vaccination you may have side effects. This is natural and they’ll usually go after a few days. Using over-the-counter medications, like paracetamol, and drinking plenty of sugar-free drinks will help if you get a high temperature.
You might find your blood sugar levels are higher than normal. This will usually settle as your body returns to normal. But if your blood sugar levels remain consistently high, or you experience anything other than these mild side effects, you must tell your doctor or healthcare professional.
If you get flu
If you don’t get the jab in time, you might get flu.
Your doctor or nurse should tell you what to do if you’re unwell. If you take an SGLT2 inhibitor tablet, you should stop this when you’re not well. Your blood sugars may rise when you’re not well so don’t stop taking any other diabetes treatment. And see your doctor or nurse soon, before it gets serious.
We’ve put together some guidance to help you get through the flu:
You really need to keep warm during the winter, both indoors and outdoors. If your house is too cold, turn up the heating to at least 18°C (65°F).
Keep testing your blood
Being unwell can cause your blood sugars to go up and down. If you normally test your blood sugar, you may need to do it more often depending on your diabetes treatment.
Keep hydrated and eat
Living with diabetes and being unwell can be made worse if you don’t keep your fluids up. Some medications mean you need to eat regularly, so try to eat a little and often. Carbohydrate-based drinks, like milk or juices, may help you manage your blood sugars alongside any medication.
Go to your GP
If your symptoms don’t improve, you need to see your GP. Don’t waste time. Leaving things until they get worse might lead to more serious infections.