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At any age, people with type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of COVID-19 infections becoming severe. But what about the 1.6 million Americans with type 1 diabetes, who are younger, on average? Their response to the virus is less clear, disease experts said last week in the CDC’s special forum on COVID-19 and diabetes.
Because COVID-19 is new, there is little solid information to go on, said US Public Health Service Commander Sharon Saydah, Ph.D., a member of the CDC epidemiology task force.
“People who already have diabetes-related health problems are likely to have worse outcomes if they contract COVID-19 than people who are otherwise healthy,” Dr. Saydah said.
Although their risks remain unknown with regard to the novel coronavirus, people with type 1 diabetes need to take special precautions for other viral illnesses to protect their health.
What’s the Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?
People who have type 1 diabetes absolutely lack insulin, Dr. Stöppler said. These people are likely to have immune systems that mistakenly attack and destroy the parts of the pancreas that produce insulin, she said.
Despite different causes, the outcome is largely the same, Dr. Stöppler said, and they lead to the same symptoms:
- Increased urine output (polyuria)
- Increased thirst (polydipsia)
- Increased hunger (Polyphagia)
- Unexplained weight loss
Getting Sick: What Should People With Diabetes Do?
If you get sick and you have diabetes, you need to take special precautions according to the CDC.
For instance, you may lose your appetite if you get sick. But every four hours you should get around 50 grams of carbs. The CDC recommends 1.5 cups of apple sauce or fruit juice.
You also need to test your blood sugar more often. That’s because the hormones your body releases when you fight off an illness can force more sugar into your bloodstream, meaning you may need more insulin than usual.
DKA is much more common in people with type 1 diabetes, Dr. Balentine said. Staying consistent with any prescribed insulin can help prevent DKA, he said.