Flu Shot vs. Insulin

Flu shot vs. Insulin

Even if you have well managed diabetes, you might have some questions about how getting the flu can affect your health. In this blog post we’ll address some important questions to make sure you’re prepared for the next flu season. 

The flu is a masterpiece of nature. It’s rapidly evolving and really dangerous. There are so many strains of the flu virus circulating, that seasonal flu shots can’t cover every flu strain to give you complete immunity. 

But why is the flu even more dangerous if you have diabetes?

Type 1

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the body’s immune system is compromised, leaving it more susceptible to infections, like the flu. 

Some of the common side effects of the flu are vomiting, loss of appetite and fever, which frequently result in dehydration. This dehydration can easily lead to an emergency condition called DKA. 

During DKA, your body starts to break down fat for energy at a really high rate, and your liver processes that fat into a fuel called ketones. Ketones are acidic molecules. Their build up in the blood can make it too acidic, quickly causing poisoning. If left untreated, DKA can lead to diabetic comas or death.

Type 1 and 2

Having the flu or generally fighting off an infection leads to an increase in blood glucose levels. Your blood glucose levels are likely to be high, and remain high. This can also lead to DKA if not monitored carefully. 

Having high blood glucose levels can promote further infection. This leads to some more severe flu complications like pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections, which often lead to hospitalization. 

*In general, obesity while managing diabetes can be a huge risk factor for these complications as well.*

If the flu shot won’t give me complete immunity, why should I bother taking it?

  • Although you can’t be completely immune to the flu, getting the flu shot decreases your chances of getting the flu by 50-60% – that’s pretty good! 
  • In a recent study, it was discovered that the flu shot decreased hospitalization by 79%  for people with diabetes. 

Do I need to get the flu shot every year?

Yes! Besides the fact that immunity wanes over time, the flu vaccine offered each year is updated from last season’s vaccine to better reflect the circulating viruses. 

Why do I feel sick after a flu shot?

Discomfort after receiving a vaccine can be pretty common. The vaccine itself can’t give you the flu, but like other vaccines, it can cause some minor and short-lived side effects like soreness at the site of injection, chills, headaches and a low-grade fever (less than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit). If symptoms persist or worsen, always remember to contact your physician.

Will getting the flu shot impact my blood glucose?

While most physicians report that flu vaccines should not affect your blood glucose, there is some evidence to the contrary.

Some people have reported higher than normal blood glucose readings after receiving the flu vaccine, and lasting for one to two weeks. However, these levels generally do not indicate an emergency situation.

There is no confirmed explanation of why this occurs besides the possibility of a small increase in metabolism while the body processes the vaccine. After receiving your flu vaccine, make sure you monitor your blood glucose levels closely, and adjust your insulin and diet accordingly. If your blood glucose levels remain higher than normal for one to two weeks, contact your physician.

Bottom line 

According to a 2018 study from the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to die of a complication related to the flu. 

Luckily, flu shots are now offered at most primary care physicians’ offices, as well as all across the county at the following pharmacies: Costco, Walgreens, CVS & Rite Aid. Most insurance and many community programs will cover the cost of a flu shot. If those are not available, expect to pay around $40 for the flu shot. 

The flu shot can be a great way to protect yourself and those around you, and an effective measure to prevent flu related complications. Stay safe this flu season! 


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