Coronavirus: specific advice for people with diabetes

Web Resource Last Updated: 19-05-2021

Contents

Having diabetes does NOT mean you are more likely to catch Coronavirus.  However, if you do catch Coronaviruses, it can cause more severe symptoms and complications in people with diabetes. More severe symptoms are also likely in older people, and those with other long-term conditions such as cancer or chronic lung disease.

Latest Updates

What's changed?

The government has published the ‘COVID-19 Response - Spring 2021’ setting out the roadmap out of the current lockdown for England. As cases are continuing to fall, a number of services and businesses have reopened including:

  • Outdoor gatherings are limited to 30 people and indoor gatherings are limited to 6 people or 2 households
  • Indoor entertainment and attractions such as cinemas, theatres, concert halls, bowling alleys, casinos, amusement arcades, museums and children’s indoor play areas are permitted to open with COVID-secure measures in place.
  • People can attend indoor and outdoor events, including live performances, sporting events and business events. Attendance at these events is capped according to venue type, and attendees should follow the COVID-secure measures set out by those venues.
  • Indoor hospitality venues such as restaurants, pubs, bars and cafes can reopen.
  • Organised indoor sport can take place for all. This includes gym classes. 
  • All holiday accommodation can open, including hotels and B&Bs.
  • Funeral attendance is no longer be limited to 30 people but will be determined by how many people the COVID-secure venue can safely accommodate with social distancing.
  • The rules for care home residents visiting out and receiving visitors have changed, allowing up to five named visitors (two at any one time), provided visitors test negative for COVID-19.
  • All higher education students are able to access in-person teaching.
  • Support groups and parent and child group gathering limits have been increased to 30 people
  • There is no longer a legal restriction or permitted reason required to travel internationally. A traffic light system for international travel has been introduced, and you must follow the rules when returning to England depending on whether you return from a red, amber or green list country.

Keeping yourself and others safe

Restrictions have been eased following the move to step 3. However, we must continue to exercise caution. You should follow this guidance on what you can and cannot do. 

You should also follow the guidance on how to stop the spread of coronavirus at all times, including if you have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

To read the full guidance on what you can and cannot do, please see the UK Government website. *Please note these measures are applicable to England, please see the guidance for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland*

Meeting others

Indoors:

It is safer to meet people outdoors. This is because COVID-19 spreads much more easily indoors. However, you can meet up indoors with friends and family you do not live with, either:

  • in a group of up to 6 from any number of households (children of all ages count towards the limit of 6)
  • in a group of any size from up to two households (each household can include an existing support bubble, if eligible)

If you are meeting friends and family, you can make a personal choice on whether to keep your distance from them, but you should still be cautious. You should read the guidance on meeting friends and family.

Outdoors:

You should continue to minimise the number of people you meet within a short period of time to limit the risk of spreading coronavirus (COVID-19). Most restrictions on meeting people outdoors have been lifted, but gatherings must not exceed 30 people unless covered by a legal exemption.

Education

School

School pupils and students in further education should go to school and college.

All schools, colleges and other further education settings are open for face-to-face teaching during term time. It remains very important for children and young people to attend, to support their wellbeing and education and to help working parents and guardians.

Clinically extremely vulnerable pupils and students should go to school or college.

Universities and higher education

All students are now able to resume in-person teaching and learning. Students should take a test before they travel to a non-term residence. There is guidance for universities and students starting and returning to higher education.

Students should follow the guidance on how to stop the spread of COVID-19 at all times.

Travel

You should continue to plan ahead and travel safely where possible. You can plan ahead and travel safely by taking the following precautions:

  • walk or cycle where possible
  • plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport
  • regularly wash or sanitise your hands
  • wear a face covering on public transport, unless you’re exempt
  • make sure the space is well ventilated. Open windows or take other actions to let in plenty of fresh air

You must not share a private vehicle in groups larger than 6 people (except when everyone present is from no more than 2 households), unless your journey is made for an exempt reason.

There is additional guidance on safer travel, including on the safe use of public transport.

Vaccinations

The NHS is currently offering COVID-19 vaccines and will let you know when it's your turn to have the coronavirus vaccine. You can also book your vaccine online if you are eligible, which means you do not need to wait to be contacted if any of the following apply:

  • you're aged 36 or over
  • you'll turn 36 before 1 July 2021
  • you are at high risk from coronavirus (clinically extremely vulnerable)
  • you have a condition that puts you at higher risk (clinically vulnerable)
  • you have a learning disability
  • you get a Carer's Allowance, get support following an assessment by your local authority or your GP record shows you are a carer

You can book appointments at a larger vaccination centre or a pharmacy that provides COVID-19 vaccinations.

Book your coronavirus vaccination appointments online.

Find out more about who is eligible to have a COVID-19 vaccine.

Covid vaccines and diabetes

The vaccines have been shown to reduce the likelihood of severe illness in most people. If you have diabetes, Diabetes UK strongly encourages you to get the coronavirus vaccine and take whichever vaccine you're offered. This is because people with diabetes are vulnerable to developing a severe illness if they do get coronavirus, and vaccines are the most effective way to prevent that from happening.

For more information about coronavirus vaccines and diabetes, have a look at the Diabetes UK website.

Wearing a face covering

Face coverings are mandatory in all indoor settings and public transport. Under the new rules, people who do not wear a face-covering will face a fine of up to £100. Children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt.

The liability for wearing face-covering lies with the individual. To see the UK Government advice about face coverings please click here.

What should I do if I have symptoms?

Do not leave home if you or someone you live with has any of the following: A high temperature, a new, continuous cough, a loss of, or change to, your sense of smell or taste.

Most people with coronavirus have at least one of these symptoms.

Phone your GP if your symptoms:

  • are severe or you have shortness of breath
  • worsen during home isolation
  • have not improved after 7 days

If your GP is closed, use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service or phone NHS 24 (111). In addition, it is now recommended that all individuals living in the same household as an asymptomatic person should self-isolate for 14 days (household isolation). Information on COVID-19, including “stay at home” advice for people who are self-isolating and their households, can be found on the NHS website

If you have diabetes and start to feel unwell you need to follow the sick day rules for type 1 or type 2 and check your blood glucose frequently.

You can find help on HM GOV website if you’re struggling because of coronavirus, for example with paying bills, being out of work or taking care of your mental health. You can also sign up to get emails when they change any coronavirus information on the GOV.UK websites

How coronavirus can affect people with diabetes

Everybody that has diabetes, no matter whether type 1, type 2 or gestational, is at risk of developing a severe illness if they get coronavirus, but the way it can affect you varies from person to person.

When you are ill and have diabetes, your blood glucose levels can be unstable as your body is trying to fight the illness. Your body starts releasing stored glucose into your bloodstream to give you energy. As a person with diabetes, your body either cannot produce insulin or the insulin you produce doesn't work as well. This causes your blood glucose levels to rise further. There is a risk of both high and low blood glucose levels as your body is working overtime to fight the illness.

For most people, the coronavirus causes a mild illness, but some people can develop a more serious form of the virus which can be life-threatening.

SGLT2i medication

If you have type 2 diabetes and you take SGLT2i tablets (medication that ends in 'flozin'), your doctor may want you to stop taking these for just now. This is because SGLT2i tablets can mask the symptoms of DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis) which can be caused by coronavirus.

If you have type 2 diabetes and take SGLT2i tablets, you can keep taking these unless you become unwell. If you are unwell, these tablets could increase your risk of developing diabetic ketoacidosis. 

There are lots of different types of SGLT2i tablets so have a look at Diabetes UK for the full list of brand names.

Shielding advice

If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, you are no longer advised to shield. However, you should continue to follow the guidance for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable and are advised to continue taking extra precautions to protect yourself, such as limiting close contacts, shopping or travelling at quieter times of the day, keeping rooms ventilated and washing your hands regularly Your employer is required to take steps to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace.

Other tips to keep safe and well 

If you have type 1 diabetes:

  • Ensure you have enough glucose and ketone testing equipment
  • Be aware of you sick day rules provided by your diabetes educator team
  • Make sure you have a good stock of insulin pens, needles and any other medications you are prescribed
  • Stay hydrated – have plenty of unsweetened drinks and eat little and often
  • If you are an insulin pump user you should have insulin pens as a backup and a good supply of insulin pump consumables
  • Make sure your diabetes technical device  (insulin pump /continuous glucose monitor/Freestyle Libre device) is in good working order and if you have any concerns phone the company who supplies your device directly to troubleshoot and arrange a replacement if necessary.

If you have type 2 diabetes:

  • Ensure you have enough glucose testing equipment and, if appropriate, ketone testing strips (this might be if you have had your diabetes for a long time or have had ketones in the past). Ketones are uncommon in type 2 but remain a risk if glucose is high for a significant time &/or during illness.
  •  Make sure you have a good stock of your medications, orals tablets &/or injectable therapies.
  •  Be aware of you sick day rules provided by your diabetes educator team
  • Stay hydrated – have plenty of unsweetened drinks and eat little and often

For the most up-to-date advice then keep checking the UK government and NHS websites.

Additional JDRF advice for Type 1 diabetes can be found here.

To avoid catching or spreading Coronavirus:

Do:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently – wash for at least 20 seconds
  • Always wash your hands when you get home or into work
  • Use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water isn’t available
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • Put used tissues in the bin straight away and wash your hands
  • Maintain social distancing according to government guidelines on what you can and can’t do
  • Read more about staying safe outside your home on GOV.UK.
  • Cover your face by wearing a face mask over your nose and mouth in enclosed spaces

Don't

  • Touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
  • Do not use pocket-handkerchiefs as these are unhygienic, instead use single-use tissues.

If you have hospital and GP appointments

Do not go to the GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital if you have coronavirus symptoms. If you are having treatment for something such as an eye or foot problem and you do not have coronavirus symptoms, then your appointments should still carry on unless you have been contacted to cancel it. If you are in any doubt then phone the number on your appointment letter.

The NHS and medical services remain open, including:

  • dental services
  • opticians
  • audiology services
  • chiropody
  • chiropractors
  • osteopaths
  • other medical or health services, including services relating to mental health

The NHS continues to carry out urgent and non-urgent services safely. It is vital anyone who thinks they need any kind of medical care comes forward and gets help.

Keep up your routine of checking your feet, keeping to a healthy diet and doing some physical activity in line with the restrictions. If you notice something different that you are concerned about such as a cut or blister to your foot, call your GP and let them know. If you cannot get through then call 111 for advice. If you have a change in your vision you should get in touch with your local screening service or optometrist. 

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