People with diabetes are being urged to have the flu vaccine to reduce their risk of developing serious complications arising from flu infections.
Clinicians advise that even patients whose diabetes is well managed should still have the flu vaccine. Individuals with diabetes are around six times more likely to die if they develop flu than people with no underlying health conditions.
Elevated blood glucose levels, which occur as a natural response to fighting infection, can if left untreated become a serious risk to diabetic patients.
Not only can high blood glucose cause symptoms such as tiredness and increased thirst and make it harder for the body to fight infection, it can also increase ketone production, which prevents other areas of the body from functioning properly.
Symptoms of rising ketone levels include vomiting, abdominal pain and shortness of breath. These could be disguised by the flu infection and risk going untreated, which could lead to coma and even death in extreme cases.
Dr Shahed Ahmad, NHS England Medical Director for Hampshire and the Thames Valley said: “It really is important for patients with diabetes to make sure they have the free flu vaccine. Having the vaccine is the best way of protecting yourself from contracting the flu virus, and to minimise the risk of developing more serious complications.”
Patients with diabetes can have the vaccine free of charge, via their GP surgery or local community pharmacy. Patients should have the vaccine as soon as possible, giving themselves the best chance of immunity before the flu virus begins actively circulating in the community.