The COVID-19 is the seventh Coronavirus that the humans are dealing with. A number of viral diseases ranging from the common cold to the deadly MERS and SARS outbreaks, in the past. It is a novel Coronavirus which spreads from touch or ingestion through nose, mouth or eyes. The droplet based virus has an incubation period of up to 14 days after entering the recipient’s body. It was first reported from Wuhan, China and has now been reported from more than 200 countries across the globe.
As a diabetic, you must already be living a life of extra precautions and being careful of your body’s special needs. Still, a pandemic situation like this could cause hyper-anxiety. It is a known fact that both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes enhances the risk of infections in people. Diabetes can impact body’s immunity and make it easier for the Coronavirus to cause damage.
Hollywood superstar Tom Hanks is a type 2 diabetic and he was among those infected with Coronavirus recently. Despite his diabetic condition, Tom suffered only mild effects of the disease such as fatigue and body aches. His case proves that chances of the COVID-19 causing death among diabetics are low. However, diabetics are likely to have a much weaker immune system which makes their bodies more prone to infections.
In many cases, diabetes causes damage to the body’s circulatory systems. This makes it difficult for blood circulation to reach all parts of the body and slow down recovery from any infections, and not just COVID-19.
Whether it is diabetes type 1 or 2, they are both chronic diseases which lead to production of much higher sugar levels in the blood (medically known as blood glucose). In diabetics, the body is likely to stop or reduce the production of insulin which is a hormone responsible for turning body glucose into energy. As a result, the glucose builds up in the body and in severe cases, patients need to take insulin to control their blood sugar levels.
In the case of type 1 diabetes, the body doesn’t produce insulin naturally and the patient needs to take insulin every day to manage the blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes is the commonest form of the disease and it leads to the body producing less insulin or failing to properly use the insulin produced naturally.
Irrespective of the type of diabetes one has, the immune system is likely to be compromised and make the patient more at risk of viral infections such as Coronavirus.
What steps should I take if I am above 50 years of age and suffer from diabetes?
The steps that you need to take are quite similar to the commonly prescribed steps during the pandemic:
You must stock up your medicine and food supplies for a few weeks so that any supply disruptions caused by the lockdown don’t impact your regular diabetes maintenance. If you are used to consuming bottled water then keeping extra bottles of water is also advised.
Despite all the precautions that you take, the likelihood of symptoms of common cold or any viral infection can’t be completely ruled out. Hence, you must prepare a plan regarding what all medication you might need during the quarantine period. You must also remain in regular contact with your regular healthcare provider and find out if they have the option of tele-medicine or digital monitoring of your vitals.
Social distancing is a must in the present scenario. While there are already steps like lockdown being enforced by the government, you need to be even more careful about keeping distance with people and avoid joining any kind of groups.
You must maintain utmost sanitation and personal hygiene. Coronavirus usually spreads via infected surfaces or through droplets produced by infected people while coughing or sneezing. Hence, you must disinfect your living spaces regularly and wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds. Usage of hand sanitizers is also advised.
If you live alone then you must have your emergency contacts on speed dial. It will ensure that you are able to contact them in any sudden situation and get help quickly.
As a diabetic, you might be experiencing weakened immunity. There are various medicines and food types which increase the presence of immunity boosting vitamins in the body. You should consult your physician to prepare a diet chart that contains foods which help you strengthen your immunity without increasing your blood sugar levels.
Apart from that, you should also exercise regularly and focus on reducing stress from your life. A stress-free and confident lifestyle also helps in boosting immunity.
Apart from all the steps mentioned here and the steps that your healthcare provider might suggest, it is important to remember that COVID-19 is only a viral infection with mild impact and good chances of recovery in most cases. Less than 10% of the patients require intensive care or face any life-threatening situations. Hence, as long as you are practicing social distancing, hygiene and sanitation best practices etc, you are unlikely to contract the virus. Still if you feel that you have been infected, then kindly contact the healthcare providers and COVID-19 helpline for your area.
Dr. V. Mohan is an Indian diabetologist. He is the chairman and Chief of Diabetology at Dr. Mohans Diabetes Specialities Centre, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, which is a WHO Collaborating Centre for Noncommunicable Diseases Prevention and Control and an IDF Centre of Education and an IDF Centre of Excellence in Diabetes Care.