What you need to know about COVID-19 & diabetes

Information & advice for people living with diabetes

We’ll start with a run-through of the basics. COVID-19 (coronavirus) is a respiratory infection that can be spread from person-to-person through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. These droplets can reach the nose, mouth or eyes of another person, and can also land on objects or surfaces, and someone may become infected if they touch a contaminated object or surface. That’s why washing your hands with soap often is super important.

Diabetes is a condition that causes a person’s blood glucose level (the fancy term for blood sugar) to become too high. Blood glucose is the body’s main source of energy and comes from the food we eat. The hormone insulin (made by the pancreas) helps the glucose from food get into our cells so it can be used for energy. Sometimes the body doesn’t make enough – or any – insulin or doesn’t use insulin well, so the glucose stays in the blood and doesn’t reach the cells. Having high blood sugar levels for long periods (over months or years for example) can result in permanent damage to parts of the body like the eyes, nerves, kidneys and blood vessels. It’s important people with diabetes get their blood glucose levels under control.


What's the difference between type 1 & type 2 diabetes?

Although both types can result in high blood glucose levels, there are lots of differences between the two. Type 1 is a lifelong, auto-immune condition where the blood glucose levels are too high because the body can’t produce insulin. Type 2 is the most common and develops when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells don’t react to it. Type 2 is also often linked to lifestyle factors like diet. Find out more about the differences between type 1 and type 2 here.


Are people with diabetes more likely to catch COVID-19?

If you have diabetes – regardless of type – you’re no more likely to catch COVID-19 than someone without diabetes.


Are people with diabetes more likely to experience worse COVID-19 symptoms?

If you have any type of diabetes, you may be more at risk from developing serious illness if you do catch COVID-19. There’s no evidence to suggest that someone with type 1 diabetes will have worse symptoms than someone with type 2 and vice versa. The majority of people who get coronavirus – including those with diabetes types 1 and 2 – will experience mild symptoms that don’t require hospital treatment.


I have diabetes, what happens if I get COVID-19?

If you do get coronavirus, it’s really important that you follow your diabetes sick day rules. This includes taking your medication as normal, checking your blood glucose level and keeping hydrated. Following these steps will help you to keep your blood sugars in range as much as possible, so you can stay well and fight the virus. If you think you have symptoms of coronavirus remember to follow the government guidelines. You can book a free NHS coronavirus test by visiting: https://www.gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test. If your symptoms worsen and you become worried about them, call NHS 111 – they’ll be able to help you.

My child has diabetes, what happens if they get COVID-19?

From scientific research, there’s evidence to suggest young people – including those with diabetes type 1 and 2 – are at low risk of catching COVID-19 and if they do, symptoms tend to be mild. If you’re worried about your child’s symptoms, seek medical help.


How can I reduce the risk of catching COVID-19?

You can help reduce your risk of infection by washing your hands regularly. If you need to leave your house, remember to social distance and wear a face covering where you’re required to do so. Help avoid spreading the virus to other people by coughing or sneezing into a tissue (bin it straight away) or into your elbow.

Across the UK, there are extra measures in place to help reduce the risk of the virus spreading. Guidelines across the country are regularly updated, and you can find the latest advice at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/local-restriction-tiers-what-you-need-to-know.

Information correct at time of publication (12.01am 13/01/2021)