Is the Flu Vaccine Important for Diabetics?

Is the Flu Vaccine Important for Diabetics?

The flu season is only beginning to start. This may make people wonder whether they should get a vaccine this year or not. For people suffering from diabetes, the question becomes even more crucial.

The patients of diabetes type 1 or 2 are at a higher risk of acquiring seasonal viruses. They may need hospitalization while fighting with a disease as simple as the flu.

For people suffering from obesity, the risk of contracting flu is as great as those with diabetes.

A virus that essentially produces a mild disease in a slim person may deteriorate the health of an obese individual. This may even cause restrictive lung physiology leading to overt respiratory failure.

Pertussis or any other respiratory disease may be worse for obese people. This is especially true for those with comorbidities such as obesity hypoventilation syndrome.

The American Association of Diabetes Educators emphasizes the importance of the flu vaccine for diabetics.

Experts say that people with diabetes are at a high risk of acquiring certain diseases. It is possible to prevent most of these diseases with vaccines. It is, therefore, important for everyone to know about the vaccines they need for protection. They must also know if they have up-to-date knowledge about them.

Experts believe that vaccines, for example, flu shots, do not give you the illness. This is because they contain the dead forms of the virus themselves.

Instead, these vaccines help trigger antibody production by the immune system. These antibodies help fight off the virus if you ever come in contact with it.

Is the Flu Vaccine Important for Diabetics?
Image by RAND Corporation
Why are Diabetics at a Higher Risk of Flu?

Diabetes type 1 is a type of autoimmune disease. This means that the immune system of a diabetic is already weak. This means that their ability to fight off the flu virus is not sufficient.

People suffering from diabetes type 1 have less vigilant immune systems than normal people. Therefore, the risk of infection in the diabetics is high. This is irrespective of the type of infection.

In addition to this, a high blood sugar level in diabetes can promote an infection too.

Experts believe that diabetes makes a person prone to pneumococcal pneumonia. This increases the value of vaccines such as Pneumovax in such individuals.

For people suffering from diabetes type 1, a simple attack of fever, vomiting or dehydration is deadly. These attacks may easily precipitate diabetic ketoacidosis.

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is an emergency condition with high blood sugar levels. In addition to this, a sheer lack of insulin causes the breakdown of fat to release energy. This leads to an accumulation of ketones in urine as well as blood.

Signs of DKA include vomiting, nausea, fruity breath, stomach pain, and fast breathing. An untreated episode of DKA may lead to coma or even death.

The flu virus may cause havoc in a person with well-regulated blood glucose levels. This is because the addition of this virus increases its ability to regulate homeostasis.


Seasonal Sickness and Flu? Here’s What You Can Do

A person suffering from diabetes type 1 must monitor their blood glucose level carefully. This is particularly important if they fear they have flu. They should immediately visit an emergency room to get intravenous fluids. These fluids may include insulin, glucose, electrolytes, and saline solution.

People with diabetes are twice as likely to die of a flu-related complication. So, you need to be extremely careful.

Why are Vaccines Important?

Almost 80,000 people die every year from the flu. This also includes otherwise healthy children.

Getting a flu shot or any other vaccine like Tdap is, therefore, quite important. These vaccines not only protect you but also the unvaccinated people around you. These include people who cannot get vaccination like infants or people allergic to vaccines.

Experts believe that the flu shots don’t give you the disease because it has a dead virus in it. Instead, it helps your body prepare itself against the virus. The vaccine also stimulates the production of antibodies which it later uses to fight viruses.

Is the Flu Vaccine Important for Diabetics?
Image by Precision Vaccinations

Experts are not eager to spread information about the importance of vaccines for diabetics. Some of these vaccines include:

  • Influenza vaccine: a flu shot is the best way to protect yourself against seasonal flu. Flu puts people with diabetes at a high risk of complications. It may worsen to form bronchitis, pneumonia, and ear and sinus infections. Sometimes, things can complicate so much that the patient requires hospitalization. People must get a flu vaccine on an annual basis. Such vaccines are easily available in the market now.
  • Tdap vaccine: this vaccine protects against three serious illnesses due to bacteria. These include pertussis, diphtheria, and tetanus. People must get this vaccine once every 10 years.
  • Zoster vaccine: the zoster vaccine helps reduce the risk of acquiring shingles. It also prevents PHN, a serious illness for un-vaccinated people as they become old. You must get a zoster vaccine if you are 50 years old or more.
  • Pneumococcal vaccine: people with diabetes are at a risk of dying from pneumococcal infections. These include the infections of ear, blood, lungs, and the lining of the spinal cord and brain. Hence, the diabetics must receive this vaccine once before 65 years of age. Then, they should get it two more times.
  • Hepatitis B vaccine: hepatitis B vaccine spreads via finger stick devices, blood glucose meter, and other diabetic equipment. Therefore, it is important for the diabetics to receive this vaccine before the age of 60.
The Bottom Line

Diseases, for example, the flu may cause serious complications in people who are obese. They may even prove to be extremely dangerous for those suffering from diabetes.

A study even suggests that diabetics are twice as likely to die from a flu-related complication. For this reason, it is important for diabetics to receive flu shots.

If you are a diabetic and suspect that you have caught the flu, be cautious. Monitor your blood glucose level and visit an emergency room to get IV fluids.


Nancy holds a Pharmacy degree from University of Michigan and Masters of Science MS in Infectious Disease and Global Health (MS-IDGH) from Tufts University. She worked as a lecturer for three years before she turned towards medical writing. Her area of interest are infectious diseases; causes, mechanism, diagnosis, treatments and prevention strategies. Most of her writings ensure an easy understanding of uncommon diseases.

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