COVID-19 has been controlling our lives since March of 2020. Over 2.7 million people worldwide are now dead from this virus. Many advisories have stated that people with type 1 diabetes and the elderly are both at high risks should they get COVID-19. It is therefore not surprising that many people are asking, what happens if a person with type 1 diabetes gets COVID-19?
Is COVID-19 deadly for people with type 1 diabetes?
Will it kill me, is of course the biggest question on everyone’s mind! Thankfully, the short answer is no.
We have scoured numerous posts and articles on type 1 diabetes and COVID-19 and found that it is quite rare for an otherwise healthy person with type 1 diabetes to die from COVID-19. In most cases, those who have passed away also had other conditions like asthma or heart conditions that made them more vulnerable.
How will I know if I have COVID-19?
There are a number of symptoms that are recognized as being attributed to COVID-19. They include
- Dry cough
- Loss of smell or taste
- Body aches
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Loss of appetite
- Sensitivity to light
It is important to note that some individuals have tested positive for COVID-19 but have been asymptomatic.
Will I have to go to the hospital if I get COVID-19?
According to Diabetes Canada only one in every six people who get COVID-19 become seriously ill and develop difficulty breathing. For people with type 1 diabetes, the biggest risk when having COVID-19 seems to be developing Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) so make sure that you stay hydrated and check your blood glucose levels often.
You should contact your doctor if you experience any of the following…
- When you are not sure what to do.
- If you vomit repeatedly (not able to hold down any food or drink for more than 6 hours).
- If vomiting persists beyond 2 hours (particularly in young children).
- If blood glucose stays high for more than 24 hours
- If you develop symptoms which could be indicative of their developing diabetic ketoacidosis (nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, confusion).
- If blood ketones remain elevated > 1.5 mmol/L or urine ketones remain large despite extra insulin and hydration
Always keep your sick day protocol handy. You can get a copy of sick day management tips here.
What if my child with type 1 diabetes develops COVID-19?
Children are heading back to school in most regions and there is a very real fear about them heading back to school during a global pandemic. Researchers at Diabetes Quebec feel that children and young adults living with type 1 diabetes are not likely to experience the extreme symptoms associated with COVID-19. This is most likely because children and adolescents usually do not have any complications yet. It seems that it is those comorbidities that increase the risk of complications from COVID-19.
What is it like to have COVID-19 with Type 1 diabetes?
We have investigated a variety of forums to see how individuals living with type 1 diabetes fared after having COVID-19. Much like diabetes, it seems that everyone is different when it comes to how their body responded to the corona virus.
Here is a small sampling of what real people have said about their experience with COVID-19 and type 1 diabetes:
- I was sick and in bed with a high fever for a solid month!
- I was diagnosed in April and still have residual symptoms in September.
- I had a severe headache for 48 hours, fatigue, cough and lost my sense of smell and taste. The fatigue lasted 8 days and the cough 14 days. But my sense of taste and smell are still gone
- I had low sugars because I had no appetite due to lack of smell and taste. I had body aches, a fever, the worst headache, a bad cough and shortness of breath and stomach upset. I slept like 16 hrs a day. I had took me about 2.5 weeks to recover.
- It happened so fast! I got the shakes/chills then my energy was so low that I couldn’t even get up to check my blood sugars. Next came nausea, and fatigue. A week later came the sore chest and I breathe properly in any position
- Four months later and I still get shortness of breath and heart palpitations.
- 10 days of constantly vomiting. Lost my voice for a couple of months. Spent three days in hospital.
- Would not recommend this to anyone!
What should I do if I test positive for COVID-19 and have type 1 diabetes?
As we have said, everyone will experience COVID-19 differently and for varying lengths of time. This is the best advice that we came across for people living with type 1 diabetes…
I would say that each and everyone’s COVID-19 experience is different just like their diabetes. Please reach out to your Endocrinologist and let them know you are currently positive. They can help you best with blood sugar control. Wash and clean as much as you can. Most of all rest and be kind to yourself during this time.L. Ellingson
Whether you develop COVID-19 or come down with any other bug, make sure that you stay hydrated, check your blood glucose levels often, and follow the sick day guidelines provided by your diabetes care team.