Life-threatening diabetes mistaken for flu

By Rachel McNeill - Anchor

HOUSTON - You feel it coming on: the high fever, body aches and sore throat.

The flu is hitting the Houston area hard and for diabetics, it can be life threatening, especially for the seven million Americans who don't even know they have it.

January and February typically mark the peak of flu season which can be especially dangerous when it comes to the silent killer known as diabetes.

"If you get cold or flu, it can trigger your diabetes conditions to be worse," said UTHealth School of Nursing Assistant Professor Jing Wang, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.N. "It can trigger your blood sugar level to spike."

Wang said for a diabetic, that sudden spike in blood sugar can lead to a coma or even death.

What's so concerning is the initial symptoms may mimic flu.

"They will have high fever, dry mouth, very tired, a little confused, sleepiness, which can be confused with flu symptoms," Wang explained.

Wang said the best defense is the flu vaccine.

For Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, keep your blood sugar under control by eating right, exercising and taking medication as prescribed.

"If they can control it by lifestyle, they don't even need to take a medication," said Wang.

Family history, obesity and cardiovascular disease can increase your risk of developing diabetes.

Symptoms can include frequent urination or severe thirst, though many people have no symptoms.

Talk to your doctor about your risk to determine if you need to be checked.

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