Managing Sick Days

The weather’s getting colder, the days are getting shorter and cold and flu season is upon us. Sickness can travel fast from child to child, especially within schools or families. Getting time off work and scheduling a doctor’s appointment is already tough, but if your child is living with type 1 diabetes it becomes even more complicated.

We’ve put together a list of tips to help you and your child manage their diabetes on sick days. If you are concerned about your child’s health speak to a health professional immediately.


Tips for managing sick days:

  1. Follow your child’s sick day action plan

A sick day action plan should be worked out with your child’s diabetes health care team. If you currently don’t have one in place, speak to your GP or Diabetes Educator to organise one – it will save a lot of stress later. Your plan should include information on taking extra insulin, calculating doses, checking ketones, when you need medical help and who to call.


  1. Check blood glucose levels more often

Something as small as a cold can cause high or low blood glucose levels. You can’t predict how your child’s sickness will affect their diabetes, so it’s important to check their blood glucose levels more often than you normally would. A rough guide is every 2 to 3 hours, but this will depend on how your child is doing – you may need to check more often.


  1. Check ketone levels.

As sickness can affect blood glucose levels, it can also increase the risk of developing ketones. It’s important to check ketones levels regularly; because if they get too high it can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis. Your sick day action plan should cover how to check for ketones. Speak to your Diabetes Educator if you have any questions.


  1. Monitor food and water intake

Keep your child drinking plenty of fluids, at least ½ cup every hour. If they can’t eat a normal meal make sure they’re taking in some form of carbohydrate, either through snacks or drinks. This will help avoid dehydration and low blood glucose levels. Some options are plain rice, crackers, juice or cordial.


  1. Keep up with regular insulin doses

Often your child will need extra insulin, even if they’re not eating. Stick to their usual doses of insulin and check blood glucose and ketone levels to see if they need any additional insulin. Even if your child usually manages their diabetes on their own, they may need some assistance  when they’re sick.


  1. See a GP

It’s important to see your GP early to treat the underlying illness. They’ll also be able to guide you through what medications are appropriate and the affects they might have on blood glucose levels. As a preventative measure, your child should also receive a flu vaccine every year– it’s free for anyone living with diabetes.


It’s important to seek immediate medical attention if your child:

  • Is drowsy or confused
  • Has deep, rapid breathing or shortness of breach
  • Has stomach pain
  • Has sweet-smelling breath (sign of diabetic ketoacidosis)
  • Can’t keep food or fluids down and is experiencing persistent vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Blood glucose levels continue to rise after two extra doses of insulin (with at least two hours between each extra dose)
  • Has high ketone levels
  • Blood glucose won’t stay above 4mmol/L or they’ve had a severe hypo
  • Is too unwell to follow the sick day action plan

If you have any questions call the NDSS Helpline 1300 136 588 to speak to a Diabetes Educator


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