We’ve put together these tips to support you in keeping well and managing diabetes if you’re staying at home more often, self-isolating, spending more time inside or had your routine care postponed.
We know that at this time it may be difficult to access your usual diabetes care team so we have brought together advice from our experts on what you can do in the meantime. This advice may mean you have to completely change your way of life, and we know that may be daunting. We want you to know that we’re right here with you at this difficult time.
Whether you’re looking for ways to keep active, easy recipe ideas to keep mealtimes fresh, concerned about when to seek medical help or looking for support to help you cope emotionally – we’ve got you covered. And if you’d like to share your own tips or stories, we’d love to hear from you so please get in touch.
Updates on coronavirus (COVID-19) and diabetes
We’re working hard to always get you the most up-to-date information and latest news. Here is our latest guidance on coronavirus for people with diabetes.
Not being able to go out as much or avoid other people is a difficult thing to do. But having diabetes to think about as well as everything else in life can feel overwhelming. Stress can affect your blood sugar levels, so we’ve got some useful advice to help you manage all sorts of emotions, including stress.
Make sure you know your sick day rules. And if you usually use diabetes tech and supplies, make sure you've got these to hand – like hypo treatments or blood glucose and ketone testing tech. If you’re staying at home, don't forget to let friends and family know and keep them regularly updated.
Set goals and stick to a routine
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle during this time might be easier said than done, but it’s important to try to eat well and avoid drinking too much or smoking. Now could be a great time to do some online diabetes education. Check out our Learning Zone, full of videos, tips and tools to help you feel more confident in managing your diabetes. Some courses only take 10 minutes and we’re always adding new ones.
Some people are seeing this time as an opportunity to recharge and reconnect what’s important to you, like starting a new hobby or reading that book you’ve had your eye on for a while. But it’s easy to put pressure on yourself too, think about what makes you happy and try not to be influenced by those around you.
Look after your mind
If following the news is making you anxious, switch off for a while or limit yourself to one or two checks per day. Make time for soothing activities to help you relax and heal – things that have worked well for you in the past are likely to be the most helpful to you now.
Connect with others
Connecting with other people and talking about things can help relieve some mental pressures. It’s important to remember that you are not alone. Find out all the ways we can help you stay in touch with others.
“I use the Diabetes UK online forum, which I find is a great place to keep up to date with latest developments, both diabetes and coronavirus related. Having been a member of the forum for five years now, there are many regular members I consider as friends, even though we’ve never met. All members, new and old, have been working together to make sense of all the new information and regulations, as the situation develops.”
Looking after yourself
If your routine health checks are postponed or cancelled, it’s really important that you take care of yourself at home.
If you haven't had your Covid vaccine or your booster jab, make an appointment as soon as possible. Likewise, if you haven't had your flu jab yet this year, it's never too late. Flu jabs can be given at any time, regardless of when you have had your Covid jab.
Continue to wear your face covering where needed and stick to local guidance. Wash your hands regularly and speak to your pharmacist for any over-the-counter medications that could help if you become unwell.
This includes checking your feet for any signs of foot problems. Check all areas of your feet, including between your toes, every day and look out for any changes, cuts, and hard or flaky skin. Try using a mirror to help you look if you struggle to reach down. Watch our Head of Care and Diabetes Specialist Nurse Dan show you exactly what to do when it comes to checking your feet at home.
If you check your blood sugars, keep a close eye on these. Being less active while you’re in the house can make these run higher.
If you become unwell, it’s really important to follow the 'sick day rules'.
We have information about sick day rules and what to do if you're unwell available in 12 different languages, including Bengali, Hindi, Chinese and Polish. Click here if you need this information in another language.
Although everyone will have a different threshold for when to contact your diabetes team or GP, this offers advice on when you should certainly seek extra support.
When to seek emergency or urgent help
As always, in case of a life-threatening emergency call 999, or for urgent advice call 111 or go to their online service at Get medical help - NHS 111
If you are experiencing the symptoms of type 1 diabetes and have not been told that you have diabetes, go to the emergency department.
When to go to A&E
- If you take corrective doses of insulin and they don’t seem to be effective, and/or you are unable to eat and drink, with or without vomiting.
- If you have been following your sick day rules, including corrective insulin doses and nothing changes, or you start feeling worse.
- Or if you have the symptoms of DKA or HHS.
- If you have a new or significantly worsening foot wound.
- If you have flashing lights in your visual field or have suddenly lost significant amount of sight.
When to contact your GP or diabetes team urgently
In normal times, you can usually call and ask for an urgent (same day) telephone appointment. Urgent access to your GP may be more difficult during this period of time, but we still advise you to try your GP practice for an urgent telephone appointment in the circumstances listed below.
- If you’re unwell, for any reason, and your diabetes has become even more difficult to manage.
- If you take corrective doses of insulin and they don’t seem to be effective, but you are not being sick and you don’t have blood ketones
- If you have a new or worsening eye problem.
- If you have just become newly pregnant.
- If you are pregnant and are having frequently high blood sugars.
- If you have large unplanned weight loss or weight gain.
If you cannot get through to your GP practice, call 111 for urgent advice or go to their online service at Get medical help - NHS 111
What other support is available to me at this time?
The National Diabetes Programme has made a number of structured education programmes available to all people in England. These are
- “Healthy Living” for people with type 2 diabetes: Healthy Living There is no referral requirement, people can just access and register.
- “My Type 1 Diabetes” for adults with type 1 diabetes Homepage | My Type 1 Diabetes There is no referral requirement, people can just access and register.
- Digibetes is for young people and families: Home - DigiBete To access this people will need to be set up with an account – their paediatric diabetes team can do this for them.
People who are at risk of type 2 can self-refer (ie. access without the need to go via your GP) the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme in England through Diabetes UK’ Know Your Risk Tool
Eating a variety of healthy foods is important for everyone’s overall health and wellbeing. No specific food or supplement can prevent you from catching coronavirus, but eating a well-balanced diet can help your immune system to work well.
How to avoid snacking
Sometimes we don’t feel like eating certain foods. Sometimes we just snack because we’re bored or stressed. But this can make you feel worse in the long run, and impact your diabetes. We’ve got information to help you tackle these sorts of feelings about food, like starting a food diary or simply getting into more of a routine.
To help with keeping a routine, try to have fairly structured meal times. Try to avoid sitting front of the TV while you eat, and if you can, have a chat with your housemates or family members while cooking or eating.
And at this difficult time, you may struggle to get the kinds of foods you prefer and usually eat. Try not to worry if you’re having to eat a bit differently, just eat healthy food as much as possible and be mindful of portion sizes. We’re here to help you come up with new ideas of what to cook from your store cupboard and give you suggestions on adjusting recipes using the ingredients you have.
If you have coeliac disease and are having trouble getting hold of your usual gluten-free food, remember that many foods are naturally gluten free. Read about coeliac disease and diabetes.
If your food shopping trips should just be for essentials, be sure to take a list with you to help stock up on essentials and avoid impulse buys.
If you’re finding it hard to get your usual foods, it can be frustrating, but you could use it as an opportunity to try something new. For example, you could get wraps, wholegrain muffins or crumpets instead of your usual loaf of bread. All of these freeze well and topped with tomato puree, plenty of veggies and a little grated mature reduced fat cheese make great alternative pizzas.
Try these other food hacks:
- Grains - If the shop is out of instant rice, why not swap it with couscous or brown rice, which you can pair with curries or stews. They also contain more fibre, which is essential for digestive health and can help you to keep your blood glucose and cholesterol under control.
- Vegetables - Why not try frozen veg you would not normally buy or and tinned veg in water, these both work well in pasta, stew and soup dishes
- Fruit - If you’re having trouble getting hold of fresh or tinned fruit in natural juice, have a look for frozen fruit, or alternatively if all you can find is fruit in syrup you can simply drain and rinse this before use. They will still count towards your five-a-day.
- Eggs - If you’re having trouble finding your usual eggs, try swapping with egg whites in cartons.
- Pasta sauce - If you can’t find any in stores, why not try making your own? Simply dry fry an onion, soften it with a little water, and add tinned tomatoes and any dried herbs you have to hand. If you don’t have tinned tomatoes try using sundried tomatoes or chopped fresh tomatoes.
Struggling for inspiration with what you’ve got in the cupboard or freezer? Here’s a starter for ten:
Start your day at home with this healthy porridge recipe. Any berries and nuts would work well here and use whatever milk you have available. If you can, try to go for unsweetened versions. Oats are high in fibre and contain a specific type of soluble fibre called beta-glucan which can help regulate cholesterol.
This noodle dish is great for all the family and really easy to make. You can use whatever veg you have in the freezer. Perfect for lunch or dinner. This recipe uses chicken, but you could swap for oily fish, or a vegetarian alternative. Try not to use red or processed meat as these have links with heart problems and cancers. With fresh vegetables difficult to get hold of, don’t overlook any veg that you might normally put in your compost bin, such as any that might be starting to wilt.
Try this bean stew for dinner. Any combination of beans and lentils would work for this recipe, just check the cooking instructions. If you can’t find tinned beans, see if dried ones are available and follow the instructions on the packet. This might make the stew slightly more time consuming to make, but cooking can be a great way to pass the time.
You can make use of the herbs and spices you have in the cupboard for this recipe. Paprika will work fine if you don’t have chilli, or use a pinch of thyme or rosemary in place of oregano. This recipe contains lots of fibre which can help manage your diabetes. Fibre helps to keep your gut healthy and can reduce your cholesterol levels. Slow cookers are great to make stews and soups and can help stretch out ingredients. If you don’t have one a casserole dish or saucepan should do the trick.
This Thai chicken stir fry is another great dinner option. Stir fries are an ideal way to help you get your five-a-day, and you can add in whatever you have to hand. It’s also fairly low-carb, making it a good choice for those following a low-carb diet. Ordinary onions will work fine for this recipe if you don’t have spring onions, or you could even use leeks. You could also swap chicken out with pork, beef, prawns or salmon. The basil adds flavour but isn’t essential to the dish.
Blackberry and apple cake
Looking for a fun activity to do with your kids? You could try baking this delicious blackberry and apple cake. You could even turn baking into a science and geography lesson with the kids and look on the internet and find out why ingredients change when they are cooked or combined together and where the ingredients come from. Any berries would work for this recipe, fresh or frozen, or if you can’t find anything you could simply use extra apple. You could even use dried fruit if that’s what you’ve got to hand. This recipe contains minimal free sugars which can be helpful for managing blood sugars.
And the good news is that you can freeze most things. It’s useful to do this so you always have food to hand if canned or frozen food runs low in your local shop. It’s also a great way to make the most of your food, and your money. Get our tips on freezing food.
You’ve also been asking us about diabetes and alcohol too, like how it affects your blood sugars. Get all the facts about alcohol and diabetes.
You can also get regular food tips and advice arriving straight in your inbox with our monthly Enjoy Food newsletter.
Getting active has so many benefits if you have diabetes or if you’re at risk of type 2 diabetes. And physical and mental health often affect one another. While we’re spending more time inside, we can still find ways to get active and keep moving that much more.
We’ve got lots of info on how exercise can affect blood sugars too, so you can keep an eye on any highs and lows. There isn’t one type of activity that’s best for everyone with diabetes. It’s about finding what works for you and depends on lots of things, like what you enjoy and how much room you have in your living room.
“Working in the garden is a great de-stresser, I can forget my worries for a while while I'm concentrating on the weeds. This is important for me, particularly now. I find gardening really relaxing. If it's raining, I may be digging out the Dickens from the bookcase and getting stuck into a lengthy novel or three, there’s only so much housework you can do.”
- Robin is a member of our online forum.
Getting active can be anything that gets you moving more and – even better – something that increases your heart rate.
- Hoovering the house and cleaning all the windows
- A spot of DIY– time to tackle that shelf you’ve been putting off
- Gardening – if you have a garden. If you don’t, do you have any house plants you can water, prune and re-pot while standing up?
Pop some music on while you’re doing this, it can help you feel motivated and move that much more.
If you need to start off at an easier pace, try standing during a TV advert. If you can manage it, work towards standing for the whole advert break, then to walking on the spot during adverts. You can mix this up by doing stretches instead or jogging on the spot while the ads are on. This will help you get your steps up.
Everyone’s different, and some people find video workouts helpful to keep them motivated and follow a routine.
There are lots to choose from, but the NHS fitness studio might be a good place to start. Whether you’re into aerobics, Pilates, even belly dancing – there are plenty of options for beginners and experts.
But remember to warm your body up first, try this warm-up video from the NHS.
Staying connected with others can help with both your physical and mental health. The online workouts we’ve suggested could be done with family and friends through a webcam or an app.
We know this may be a worrying time for you and your family, so we want to make sure you know where to go if you need some support or someone to speak to.
Chat on our online forum
There are thousands of members in our online forum discussing their experiences with diabetes, from what they eat to how they keep fit. You don’t have to sign up to read existing conversations, but you will need to join if you want to ask a question or share your knowledge.
If you’ve got a specific question, or you want to talk to someone about your concerns or feelings, please give our confidential helpline a call. Our highly trained advisors have expert diabetes knowledge and can talk you through the information you need. Or if you just want to chat, they’re there for that too.
Join the conversation on social media
If you want to keep up-to-date with our latest news and advice, head over to our Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. As well as keeping you informed, we post our favourite recipes, share stories about people living with diabetes and showcase the work we are doing as a charity.
We've been holding Facebook Lives to answer your questions live. Here's our Head of Care and diabetes specialist nurse Dan Howarth answering your questions on how to manage diabetes at home during coronavirus. This information was correct when recorded on 20th April 2020.
Share your story
We’d love to hear from you so that we can share your story on our website. We won’t be able to share every story we’re sent, but we really appreciate you taking the time to get in touch.
"I’ve decided to make my quest for fitness (and sanity) into daily videos that I am sharing on my Twitter page. I've had so many great comments and lots of support from people.
They have also been sending me creative ideas of activities I could do – some better than others! I’ve had two people with diabetes reach out to me and say I have inspired them to do some exercise too, so that makes it all worth it for me."
- Ivor's self-isolating. Read Ivor's story.