Coronavirus: specific advice for people with type 1 diabetes

Web Resource Last Updated: 21-09-2020

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

Social bubbles

From Monday 14 September, you must not meet with people from other households socially in groups of more than 6. This will apply indoors and outdoors, including in private homes. This change will simplify and clarify the rules on social gatherings, so they are easier to understand and easier for the police to enforce.

There will be a limited number of exemptions. COVID-19 secure venues, such as places of worship, restaurants and hospitality venues, can still host larger numbers in total but groups of up to 6 must not mix or form larger groups. This rule will not apply to individual households or support bubbles of more than 6 who will still be able to gather together.

Education and work settings are unaffected, and organised team sports will still be able to proceed, as will weddings and funerals up to 30. This limit will be enforceable in law. See the UK Government website for the refreshed guidance on social contact, including the exceptions to the 6 person limit.

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.

Lockdown restrictions

The UK government has eased some lockdown restrictions in England so you can now leave your home and see people outside of your household. However, there are now some areas that have imposed local lockdown restrictions due to outbreaks of coronavirus - please check your local council website or the UK Government website for further updates about this.

People that are classed as 'clinically extremely vulnerable' were still being advised to shield but that guidance is now being paused in different areas so please check your local government site or ask your healthcare team if you are in this group. These include people with certain types of cancers and severe respiratory conditions.

People with diabetes are not in the clinically extremely vulnerable group (shielding group). People with diabetes are in the 'clinically vulnerable group'. This means if you do go out, be really careful to avoid contact with people you don't live with. Do not leave home if you or anyone in your household has symptoms.

When leaving your home, make sure to wash your hands as soon as you get home and still follow social distancing measures. You should also ensure you stay 2 metres (6 ft) apart from anyone outside your household where possible or 1 metre with extra precautions in place.

Find out more about these changes on the UK government website. Please be aware that these rules are changing at different times across the UK so there is different advice if you live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

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 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 on multiple daily injections or insulin pump therapy 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.

Shielding advice

Shielding is a way to protect those that are extremely vulnerable and at a very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus. This involves staying at home and avoiding all face-to-face contact for at least 12 weeks. Those that are classed as extremely clinically vulnerable are people with certain types of cancer and severe respiratory conditions.

Lockdown restrictions for those that were previously shielding is pausing in different areas of the country, but restrictions could vary depending on the area you live in so please check the UK Government website or ask your healthcare team for further advice.

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.

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
  • Try to avoid close contact with people that are unwell

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.

Most routine appointments such as your annual diabetes review have been delayed or postponed for just now. These will be rescheduled once the situation returns to normal. In the meantime keep up your routine of checking your feet, keeping to a healthy diet and doing some physical activity.

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. 

Children and school

Everyone, including children, can get coronavirus. All of the guidance regarding social distancing and washing applies to children with diabetes too.

Schools should be practising social distancing for your child when they're at school. This is to prevent the virus from spreading between children and your home.

You may be worried about the safety of your child going to school if they have diabetes. Speak to the school and to your child’s diabetes team about your concerns. Read Diabetes UK guide for parents on what you should expect from your child's school – including doing a risk assessment and having the right policies in place.

You can find all of the latest news from the government about coronavirus on their website.

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