When you’re unwell, you need to take extra care. As a person with diabetes when you are sick, your body’s increased production of stress hormones will cause your blood glucose levels to rise.

Make sure you keep a list of contact numbers for your doctor, Credentialled Diabetes Educator, hospital and ambulance by the phone. If possible, have a friend or relative come and regularly check on you.

Taking Insulin when Sick

When you’re sick continue to take your usual dose of insulin. Never stop taking or reduce your insulin dose.

Sometimes when you are sick you may need more insulin or extra doses of insulin. Contact your doctor or Credentialled Diabetes Educator if your illness lasts for more than one day, or if you vomit more than three times in a day, to discuss whether your insulin needs to be changed.

Eating when Sick

Eat according to how you feel and what food you can tolerate. If you can’t eat your usual meals, make sure you have small low-fat snacks at regular intervals throughout the day, e.g. toast, crackers, boiled rice, soup, low-fat custard or ice-cream.

If you can’t eat food, have sips of fluid every few minutes.

Include carbohydrate drinks (such as fruit juice or lemonade) if your blood glucose level is below 15 mmol/L or unsweetened fluids (such as soda water or diet lemonade) if your blood glucose level is above 15 mmol/L.

Dehydration when Sick

High blood glucose levels, vomiting and diarrhoea can all lead to dehydration. You will need to drink more, but it is important what you should drink, based on your blood glucose levels.

If your blood sugar level is more than 15 mmol/L then you should drink unsweetened fluids like water, clear soups, weak tea, or diet lemonade.

If your blood sugar level is less than 15 mmol/L then you should drink sweetened fluids like ordinary lemonade, cordial or apple juice.

Exercising when Sick

People with diabetes are generally discouraged from strenuous physical activity if they feel unwell or have ketones present in their blood or urine.

Testing Blood Glucose Levels when Sick

When you are sick, you need to test your blood glucose levels more frequently, e.g. every 2-4 hours, and record all results. Illness or high blood glucose levels can lead to a serious condition called ketoacidosis.

When to Seek Medical Assistance

If you have diabetes and are sick you should immediately contact your doctor or go to hospital if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Breathlessness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sweet fruity smell on the breath
  • Drowsiness
  • Your blood glucose level is higher than 15 mmol/L for two consecutive readings (in a 2-6 hour timeframe)
  • A moderate to large ketones are present in your urine or your blood ketone level is = 1.5 mmol/L
  • You can’t keep down any food or fluids.

More Information about Sick Day Management

For more information on diabetes and sick days contact the Australian Diabetes Education Association on (02) 6287 4822 to obtain copies of the following:

  • Sick Day Management Guidelines for People with Diabetes
  • Feeling Sick? What to do? Information for People with Type 1 Diabetes

Last Reviewed: 22/05/2014

Reproduced with the kind permission of Diabetes Australia.


Diabetes Australia. Diabetes and Sick Days. Last updated 22/05/2014. http://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/en/Living-with-Diabetes/Everyday-Life/Sick-Days (accessed Aug 2014)