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Guide to Diabetes

Coping with Illness: Sick Days

  • Newly revised information booklets for "Managing diabetes when you are ill and have Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes"

What happens if you are ill?


People with diabetes don’t get ill any more often than other people, but illness and infections tend to push up blood glucose and can often make you feel more unwell.

Simple illnesses such as:

  • The common cold or flu

  • Stomach upsets- particularly food poisoning

  • Sore throats

  • Bronchitis

  • Urinary tract infections

  • Ulcers

  • Infections 

    All the above may result in hospital admission for the person with diabetes.


What happens to your blood glucose when you are ill

When you are ill especially with a fever, your blood glucose levels tend to rise, even if you cannot eat or are being sick. However occasionally your blood glucose levels may be low, so regular blood glucose monitoring (at least 4 times a day every 2-3 hours) to help you decide whether changes to your tablets and insulin’s are needed.


The sick day rules for people with diabetes

  • Never stop taking your insulin if you have Type 1 Diabetes

  • Continue to take your tablets and/ or insulin even if you are not eating much

  • Drink plenty of non-sugary fluids (4-6 pints per day) between meals to avoid dehydration

What to eat when you are unwell - General advice

When you are ill you may not want to eat. You might have to eat more fatty or sugary foods than normal, but you don’t have to worry about that. Try cereals, toast, soups, milk puddings, light meals based on meat or fish and chicken, avoid fried and spicy foods. It may be easier to manage regular snacks and drinks rather than 3 main meals try:

  • Ice cream, sugar free jelly and tinned fruit in natural juice

  • tea, milk or milky drinks

  • toast

  • Plain biscuits

If you are unable to eat download our patient leaflets for alternatives.

Monitoring ketones, Diabetic Ketoacidosis, is a serious complication - read more


If you are vomiting and your blood glucose is over 16 mmol/l you need to get medical help, especially if you are no better after the 2nd test or the next insulin injection. You may need to be admitted to hospital.


At all times remember, whatever your blood glucose level is, if you cannot keep drinking, have persistent vomiting, become drowsy, breathing becomes deep & rapid then immediately seek medical advice dial 999 


What to do when you are ill and have Type 1 diabetes - 2015

Information about managing your Type 1 diabetes on sick days  Download Document

Type 2 Diabetes - Coping with Sick Days 2015

Information about coping with sick days if you have Type 2 diabetes Download Document