Preliminary data from China suggest that people with diabetes and other preexisting conditions are more likely to experience serious complications and death from COVID-19 than people without diabetes and other conditions.
But COVID-19 and the coronavirus that causes it are new, and researchers are still investigating how they impact immunity. We also know that if a person has diabetes and gets influenza or another infection, they can experience worse health outcomes. The question is why.
High blood sugars can interfere with white blood cells’ ability to fight infection. So there’s a possibility that people with high blood sugars may have a suppressed immune system, leaving them more susceptible to lung complications. There’s not enough data yet to know if there is a link between blood sugar control and COVID-19 outcomes.
Preparation and precautions are the best protection
Fortunately, we can still help protect people with diabetes with the information we do know. If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, take the following steps to prepare and reduce your risk of infection:
- Wash your hands regularly. Take care to wash your hands frequently. You should be using soap and water, and scrubbing for at least 20 seconds. Wash your hands whenever you’re preparing or eating food, caring for a child or a sick person, using the toilet, or going out in public.
- Wear a cloth mask in public. If you need to leave your home, for example to go to the grocery store or pharmacy, wear a cloth face mask. The CDC has instructions for making your own masks. They do not recommend wearing an N95 mask, as those should be reserved for health care professionals.
- Practice social/physical distancing. Stay at least six feet away from other people, and avoid gathering in large groups. It can help to use mail-order delivery for prescriptions and a grocery delivery service. If you do get sick, stay home and isolate yourself from other people in your household.
- Have up-to-date supplies and prescriptions of your diabetes devices and medications. Stock up on insulin supplies, glucose testing supplies, ketone test strips, glucose tablets, and up-to-date prescriptions.
- Continue taking ACE inhibitors and ARBs as directed. If you take ACE inhibitors or ARBs for high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes, keep taking them unless your physician recommends otherwise. There was a controversial report saying that these drugs might make people more susceptible to COVID-19, but there is no evidence that this is true. In fact, the American Heart Association and other major a