Coronavirus and your health

Learn more about COVID-19 and diabetes.   |   Precautions for patients facing higher risks

The Latest on COVID-19 Prevention, Vaccination and Safety for People Living with Type 2 Diabetes

If you’re managing type 2 diabetes, you might be feeling confused about the constantly changing medical advice about COVID-19 as the country continues to open.

The good news is, you’re not alone! And there’s plenty you can do, even if you’re feeling unsure.

It all starts with vaccines – the lifeline back the way things used to be. If you get vaccinated, you’re well on your way to a safer time during the pandemic.

Still, we all have a lot more questions. Here are answers and guidance from the scientific and medical experts a the American Heart Association® (AHA) and American Diabetes Association® (ADA):

What are the safety basics?

As you probably know, type 2 diabetes increases your risk of complications if you get COVID-19. While vaccination is key, it’s still crucial to monitor your blood sugar (blood glucose) levels. When you do that and follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines, you are giving yourself an incredible safety boost. 

Should I get the vaccine?

Yes. Medical experts encourage everyone to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible. Vaccine safety has been studied thoroughly. Research has shown that vaccinations are safe for people of color, people with diabetes and people with a history of heart disease or stroke. If you get COVID-19 and your diabetes is well- manager, the vaccine lowers the risk of getting very sick and developing serious complications. 

The three authorized vaccines in the United States, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, have proven safe in scientific search. The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration published details about each vaccine’s results. 

“Every day, we are putting in the work to try to eat right, to try to move, to try to take care of ourselves. Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is part of that.” – Lupe, an Ambassador of Know Diabetes by Heartt and a person living with diabetes. 

Is my risk of COVID-19 different because I have diabetes?

In a word, yes. The more health conditions a person has, the greater his or her risk of complications from COVID-19. The disease has disproportionately hurt people with underlying medical conditions, older adults, Black people, Hispanic people and other people of under-represented races and ethnicities. 

However, even though the risk of health complications is higher is you get the virus, data shows that people with diabetes do not appear more likely to become infected with COVID-19 than people without diabetes. Race and ethnicity don’t directly increase the risk of being infected, but racial/ethnic differences impact outcomes for patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Knowing your real risks is key. 

Can I visit my doctor’s office or pharmacy again?

It is important to keep your doctor appointments and take your medications as prescribed. If you have delayed or canceled an appointment due to COVID-19, it is time to make that appointment and get back to routine care. If you have concerns, talk to your doctor by phone, email or visit their website to learn more about the safety precautions being taken at their office. You can also ask if telehealth is an option. 

When picking up medicine or prescriptions, call ahead, use a drive-through or curbside pick-up or see if your pharmacy delivers. Continue taking medications as directed by your health care professional. If you are struggling to pay for insulin, the ADA has resources to help at InsulinHelp.org.

Is it safe to travel and use public transportation now?

Because people with diabetes face more risks, it’s still best to avoid non-essential travel. If you do use public transportation, wear a mask (which is still a requirement on public transportation.) Also, continue to practice physical distancing, wash your hands and use sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol. While the country is opening, those of us with higher risks have to stay vigilant on the safety basics. 

Will the vaccine affect my blood sugar levels?

The vaccine can cause you to feel ill and make it difficult to manage blood glucose levels. It’s important to carefully monitor your blood sugar levels for 48 hours after your vaccinates. Stay hydrated and make sure to have your sick day plan ready in case you don’t feel well. Also, stay active while at home to help manage your diabetes (e.g. light exercise, walking or lifting weights.)

If my grandkids visit my home and they are unvaccinated, can I hug them?

If you aren’t vaccinated yet, continue to follow COVID-19 guidelines, which means no hugging just yet. Meeting outside in a well-ventilated area is best. Avoid direct contact and keep a distance from others – it’s especially important for people at higher risk of getting very sick.

How about outside family gatherings?

Once you’re fully vaccinated, you can resume more outdoor activities without masks, except where otherwise required. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 at outdoor family gatherings or cookouts, remind guests to stay home if they feel unwell and consider keeping a list of guests who attend for potential future contact tracing.

Learn more about COVID-19 and diabetes from the AHA and ADA.