In diabetes, sick days are not just a day off school to watch TV. Diabetes sick days can be serious.

In a child with Type 1 Diabetes, the pancreas can sometimes alert you to illness long before other symptoms show up. Your school-aged child may have blood sugars that increase for what seems like no good reason, then you discover a few days later that a flu or some bug is going around the school that your child’s body needs to fight. (The same thing can happen with adults.)

What Does A Diabetes Sick Day Look Like?

The picture above was taken when my son was sent home from school with a very low-grade fever. Because of a high blood sugar, the school nurse checked his temperature, and even though it was only one decimal point above the allowed limit with no other symptoms, he was sent home for the day.

As a parent, you want your child healthy. As the parent of a child with diabetes, you want it even more as true sick days are very severe and can result in DKA (Diabetic Ketoacidosis).

But if they are not ill, you want nothing more than for them to be normal, in school learning with their friends. Some kids with diabetes already miss more school because it takes them longer to recover than the average child without diabetes.

Are Kids With Diabetes Over-Monitored For Illness?

I won’t lie. These situations where my son is sent home healthy frustrate me and make me wonder how many low-grade fevers and other flu-like symptoms are lurking in the school hallways unnoticed or unreported. Sometimes it feels like my child gets the short end of the deal because no one runs around the halls with a thermometer checking kids who don’t have diabetes for flu symptoms.

….And there are real sick days.

What Does A REAL Diabetes Sick Day Look Like?

The next image was less than 24 hours after blood sugars that were on the higher side did not go down right away. Meaning, there was not enough insulin in my son’s body. This makes a person feel sick. They feel very sick.

DIabetes sick day

A diabetes sick day. It looks like the flu. Please know the signs! It could save a life.

There are times that a blood sugar will not go down right away. Could be a pump site that needs changing, could be a bad vial of insulin, could be many other things.

But the point is, it does not take long for high blood sugars to cause a person with Type 1 Diabetes to not feel well. Nausea sets in pretty quickly.

In a child who has not been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, a doctor will most often assume this is the flu.

Once we found the root cause of my son’s insulin not getting to his system, and corrected that, in a very short time he was up and running again.

Diabetes Symptoms Can Be Similar To The Flu

These images are from a personal photography project I did about Type 1. As a parent, I debated about whether or not to share these images. However, as I once again read of another life lost to undiagnosed Type 1 Diabetes, my heart breaks.

By sharing these images, I want to further drive home the point that Type 1 Diabetes can be, and sadly is, often mistaken for flu. Please know the signs. This image looks exactly like flu.

Common Signs of Diabetes Include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Tiredness
  • Lack of interest and concentration
  • A tingling sensation or numbness in the hands or feet
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent infections
  • Slow-healing wounds
  • Vomiting and stomach pain (often mistaken as the flu).

All of these signs need not be present – it may just be one or two.
If you have any of these signs, consult with your doctor immediately.