Sick Days

young woman holding temples

Take special care when you are sick.

Your body releases extra stress hormones that cause your blood sugar to rise during illness. Monitor your blood sugar closely.

When you’re feeling ill, don’t assume that diabetes or its management is to blame.

There are many causes of illness. For example, you could have flu, pneumonia, appendicitis, heart attack or stroke, for which you need specialized care. Do not assume that all illnesses are related to diabetes or its management. Always be safe and seek medical evaluation.

Having diabetes requires you to take special care when you are sick.

When you are sick, your body releases extra stress hormones that cause your blood sugar to rise, and increase your risk of Hyperglycemic Hyperosmolar States (HHS) (Type 2 only) and very rarely Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). Be sure to monitor your blood sugar. If your blood sugar is high or you are very ill or vomiting, you need to contact your medical provider or go to the Emergency Department at your nearest hospital. Ask your provider for sick day guidelines specific for you.

General checklist for sick days:

  • Monitor blood glucose every 2-4 hours (Type 1) or 4 to 12 (Type 2) or as recommended by your provider.
  • Consult with your health care provider about medication or insulin dose changes.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, including those that have salt, such as soup bouillon.
  • Check urine or blood ketones, especially if your blood glucose is high or if you are nauseated and vomiting. If ketone levels are elevated, you need to seek immediate medical attention.

You need immediate medical attention if you have:

  • Persistent nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Trouble moving arms or legs
  • Vision, speech or balance problems
  • Feel you are unable to take care of yourself
  • Persistent blood glucose levels of more than 250 mg/dl
  • Persistent fever or signs of worsening infection
  • Urine or blood ketones above normal

People often wait too long to get medical care and may become very ill. Delay in seeking care can be life-threatening.


Some illnesses require immediate care at the Emergency Department, while others can be managed by consulting your doctor. When in doubt or if you can’t reach your provider, go to an urgent care clinic or Emergency Department.

Learn more about:

Self-assessment Quiz

Self assessment quizzes are available for topics covered in this website. To find out how much you have learned about  Sick Days, take our self assessment quiz when you have completed this section.  The quiz is multiple choice. Please choose the single best answer to each question. At the end of the quiz, your score will display. If your score is over 70% correct, you are doing very well. If your score is less than 70%, you can return to this section and review the information.

©2007-2020 Collective work Martha Nolte Kennedy,
The Regents of the University of California.
All rights reserved.