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Adults with Diabetes and the Risk of Seasonal Influenza

If you have diabetes, the flu can be particularly risky.

According to the results of a new study, working-age adults with type 2 diabetes are at an especially increased risk of doctor visits, hospitalizations and death from the flu, making an annual vaccine all the more important for this at-risk group.

Researchers from Manitoba, Canada, looked at more than 160,000 subjects of an average age of 50.5 and found that those with diabetes were as likely as those who were elderly to develop complications from flu-related symptoms – and six times more likely to die – than those without diabetes.

Working age was identified as age 65 or less for the parameters of the study.

Diabetes can lead to a weakened immune system, experts say, which makes those with the disease more vulnerable. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that those with diabetes are three times more likely to be hospitalized with the flu.

Having the flu can lead to elevated blood glucose as well as flu-related complications such as pneumonia, according to, making it more important than ever to keep a close eye on blood sugar levels, and check it as often as possible.

“Feeling tired from the flu can mask symptoms of low blood glucose and high blood glucose,” said diabetes educator Debby Johnson in an interview with US News and World Report.

Experts say getting a flu vaccine is important protection, and recommend an injection since the nasal vaccine have been found to be unsafe for those with diabetes.

“Guidelines calling for influenza vaccinations in diabetic, in addition to elderly, adults implicitly single out working-age adults with diabetes,” said Darren Lau of the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta. “We found that working-age adults with diabetes appear more susceptible to serious influenza-attributable illness. These findings represent the strongest available evidence for targeting diabetes as an indication for influenza vaccination, irrespective of age.”

For diabetics who do get the flu, suggests reading cold and flu medication labels before taking them since they may be high in sugar – especially the liquid medicines – which can lead to elevated blood sugar.

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