Diabetes Planned Visit Notebook

29.11 Preparing for Sick Days

Summa Health System developed this fact sheet on how being ill affects patients with diabetes. Care providers give it to patients during diabetes planned visits, and it is part of the Diabetes Planned Visit Notebook.

Diabetes: Preparing for Sick Days

Family Medicine Center of Akron

Copyright © 1997 American Diabetes Association Adapted from the American Diabetes Association Patient Information

What Happens When You Are Sick

When you are sick, your diabetes is affected in many ways. Illness puts a stress on your body, which results in your body making more sugar. As a result, when you are sick, it is easier to lose control of your diabetes. High blood sugar and ketones in the urine can be dangerous and cause a life-threatening problem.

Before You Get Sick

  • Make sure you and your doctor or nurse discuss your personal Sick Day Plan.
  • Have all the supplies on Sick Day Checklist ready at home.

What to Do When You Are Sick

  • Always take your diabetes medicine, even if you cannot eat.
  • Test your blood sugar every 4 hours, at least before every meal and at bedtime. Test more often if you are vomiting or have diarrhea.
  • Test your urine for ketones with Ketostix each time you check your blood sugar.
  • Take your temperature
  • Drink plenty of liquids, at least a 1/2 cup every hour. Water and minerals are lost quickly during illness, especially if you have a fever, vomiting or diarrhea. Try water, tea and sugar free soft drinks.
  • Follow your meal plan. If you cannot eat regular foods, try having fruit juice, gelatin, broth, milk, or yogurt instead. Try to eat a sugar-containing food from the sick day food list every 3 or 4 hours.

When to Call the Doctor

  • You are vomiting and cannot keep down food, liquids, or diabetes pills.
  • Your illness lasts more than 24 hours.
  • Moderate or large amounts of ketones are present in your urine.
  • Your blood sugar tests are higher than 240 mg/dl.
  • Your blood sugar is less than 80
  • Your temperature is over 101 degrees.
  • Your chest hurts, you are having trouble breathing, your breath smells fruity, or your lips or tongue are dry and cracked.

If you have any questions regarding Sick Days, please call the Family Medicine Center at (330) 375-3584, or 1-800-460-2332.

Be Prepared: A Sick Day Checklist

  • Urine test strips for ketones (Ketostix).
  • Glucose tablets or other sugar source to treat low blood sugars.
  • Antacid/diarrhea medicine (Pepto-Bismol).
  • Sugar free cough and cold preparation (Scot-Tussin).
  • Tylenol (for fever and aches and pains).
  • Thermometer.
  • Blood testing supplies (meter, lancets, test strips, extra batteries).
  • Sick Day Record.
  • Two day supply of sick day foods.

Sick Day Foods

(Each serving can replace one serving of bread or fruit)

Food Amount
fruit juice 1/3 to 1/2 cup
soda (with sugar) 1/2 cup
gelatin (with sugar) 1/2 cup
yogurt 1/2 cup
milk 1/2 cup
hot cereal (cooked) 1/2 cup
ice cream (vanilla) 1/2 cup
broth based soup 1 cup

If you have any questions regarding Sick Days, please call the Family Medicine Center at (330) 375-3584, or 1-800-460-2332.

Page last reviewed October 2014
Page originally created January 2008
Internet Citation: 29.11 Preparing for Sick Days. Content last reviewed October 2014. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/professionals/education/curriculum-tools/diabnotebk/diabnotebk2911.html