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Taking Care of Your Diabetes at Special Times

Chapter 5 of 6

Diabetes is part of your life. It’s very important to take care of it when you’re sick, when you’re at school or work, when you travel, or when you’re pregnant or thinking about having a baby. Here are some tips to help you take care of your diabetes at these times.

On this page:

When You’re Sick

Take good care of yourself when you have a cold, the flu, an infection, or other illnesses. Being sick can raise your blood glucose. When you’re sick, do the following:

  • Check your blood glucose every 4 hours. Write down the results.

  • Keep taking your diabetes medicines. Even if you can’t keep food down, you still need your diabetes medicine. Ask your doctor or diabetes educator whether to change the amount of diabetes medicine you take.

  • Drink at least a cup (8 ounces) of water or other calorie-free, caffeine-free liquid every hour while you’re awake.

  • If you can’t eat your usual food, try drinking juice or eating crackers, popsicles, or soup.

  • If you can’t eat at all, drink clear liquids such as ginger ale. Eat or drink something with sugar in it if you have trouble keeping food down.

  • Test your urine for ketones if

    • your blood glucose is over 240
    • you can’t keep food or liquids down

  • Call your health care provider right away if

    • your blood glucose has been over 240 for longer than a day
    • you have moderate to large amounts of ketones in your urine
    • you feel sleepier than usual
    • you have trouble breathing
    • you can’t think clearly
    • you throw up more than once
    • you’ve had diarrhea for more than 6 hours



  • Take your insulin, even if you’ve been throwing up. Ask your doctor about how to adjust your insulin dose, based on your blood glucose test results.

Printer-friendly version of the "Action Steps" if you use insulin



  • Take your diabetes medicines, even if you’ve been throwing up.

Printer-friendly version of the “Action Steps” if you DON’T use insulin


When You’re at School or Work

Take care of your diabetes when you’re at school or at work:

  • Follow your meal plan.

  • Take your medicine and check your blood glucose as usual.

  • Tell your teachers, friends, or close co-workers about the signs of hypoglycemia. You may need their help if your blood glucose drops too low.

  • Keep snacks nearby and carry some with you at all times to treat hypoglycemia.

  • Tell your company nurse or school nurse that you have diabetes.

Image of Sally. Sally, a 12-year-old girl with type 1 diabetes, loves her gymnastics class. She practices every day for an hour. Before Sally exercises, she checks her blood glucose to make sure it’s okay to start her workout. If her blood glucose is too low, she eats a snack before beginning to practice. Sally has told her coach that she has diabetes. She knows that if she has a problem with hypoglycemia, her coach will be there to help her.


When You’re Away From Home

Taking care of your diabetes, even on vacation, is very important.

Here are some tips:

  • Follow your meal plan as much as possible when you eat out. Always carry a snack with you in case you have to wait to be served.

  • Limit your drinking of beer, wine, or other alcoholic beverages. Ask your diabetes educator how much alcohol you can safely drink. Eat something when you drink.

  • If you’re taking a long trip by car, check your blood glucose before driving. Stop and check your blood glucose every 2 hours. Always carry snacks like fruit, crackers, juice, or soda in the car in case your blood glucose drops too low.

  • Ask ahead of time for a diabetes meal if you’re traveling by plane. Most airlines serve special meals for people with health needs. Carry food (like crackers or fruit) with you in case meals are late.

  • Carry your diabetes medicines and your blood testing supplies with you. Never put them in your checked luggage.

  • Ask your health care team how to adjust your medicines, especially your insulin, if you’re traveling across time zones.

  • Take comfortable, well-fitting shoes on vacation. You’ll probably be walking more than usual, so you should take extra care of your feet.

  • If you’re going to be away for a long time, ask your doctor for a written prescription for your diabetes medicine and the name of a doctor in the place you’re going to visit.

  • Don’t count on buying extra supplies when you’re traveling, especially if you’re going to another country. Different countries use different kinds of diabetes medicines.

Couple on a plane
When traveling by plane, find out if and when a meal will be served. Then decide when to take your insulin shot or diabetes medicines. You may need to bring your own food for the trip.



When you travel,

  • take a special insulated bag to carry your insulin to keep it from freezing or getting too hot

  • bring extra supplies for taking insulin and testing your blood glucose in case of loss or breakage

  • ask your doctor for a letter saying that you have diabetes and need to carry supplies for taking insulin and testing blood glucose

Printer-friendly version of the “Action Steps” if you use insulin


When You’re Planning a Pregnancy

Planning ahead is very important if you want to have a baby. High blood glucose can be harmful to both a mother and her unborn baby. Even before you become pregnant, your blood glucose should be close to the normal range. Keeping blood glucose near normal before and during pregnancy helps protect both mother and baby.

Your insulin needs may change when you’re pregnant. Your doctor may want you to take more insulin and check your blood glucose more often. If you take diabetes pills, you’ll take insulin instead when you’re pregnant.

If you plan to have a baby, do the following:

  • Work with your health care team to get your blood glucose as close to the normal range as possible.

  • See a doctor who has experience in taking care of pregnant women with diabetes.

  • Have your eyes and kidneys checked. Pregnancy can make eye and kidney problems worse.

  • Don’t smoke, drink alcohol, or use harmful drugs.

  • Follow the meal plan you get from your dietitian or diabetes educator to make sure you and your unborn baby have a healthy diet.

If you’re already pregnant, see your doctor right away. It’s not too late to bring your blood glucose close to normal so that you’ll stay healthy during the rest of your pregnancy.

Maria with baby.Maria, a 25-year-old woman with type 1 diabetes, wanted children. Her doctor told Maria and her husband that before she got pregnant, her blood glucose should be close to normal and her kidneys, eyes, and blood pressure should be checked. Maria began to watch her diabetes very carefully. She checked her blood glucose four times a day, ate healthy meals, began to walk a lot, and checked her blood and urine often to make sure that her body was healthy enough to carry a baby.

Once Maria became pregnant, she spent a lot of time taking care of her diabetes. Her hard work paid off. After 9 months, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy.


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