COVID-19 and Diabetes

Critical information for people living with diabetes and their direct contacts

COVID-19 (coronavirus) advice for people living with diabetes 

Diabetes WA and COVID-19 Management

For your safety and the safety of our team and program facilitators, Diabetes WA has decided to temporarily cease face to face diabetes education and support services from Monday 28th Feb 2022. We will be providing our education and support services virtually from this date.

People living with diabetes have a greater risk of developing serious complications if they contract COVID-19. The health and safety of our consumers and team is our top priority and as COVID-19 community infection rates continue to climb Diabetes WA is doing everything we can to continue to provide you with a safe environment to access diabetes education and support services.

We will continue to monitor the situation and adjust our services to ensure that people living with diabetes are provided with the support they need throughout this difficult time.

If you have any further questions or concerns please call the Diabetes WA Helpline on 1300 001 880, email [email protected], or visit COVID-19 and Diabetes – Diabetes WA.

COVID-19 vaccinations are now available for everyone over the age of 5 years old and are recommended for not only people living with diabetes, however for everyone. Diabetes WA encourage everyone to speak to their treating health professionals about being fully vaccinated (including with the booster dose). It is important that people who live with a pre-existing health condition like diabetes are as prepared as possible, including being fully vaccinated. Receiving a vaccination is especially important for women who are pregnant, people living with a medical condition where they would be considered to have a low immune system or those who are immunocompromised, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to name a few.  

For further information about the COVID-19 vaccination, the most up to date and correct information is being maintained by the Department of Health – COVID-19 vaccines | Australian Government Department of Health. 

Currently, booster doses are recommended for everyone over the age of 16 (including people who are pregnant, and those who have already received a 3rd vaccination due to being considered “severely immunocompromised” – see below). For further information about receiving a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccination – COVID-19 booster vaccine advice | Australian Government Department of Health 

An additional vaccination is currently recommended for people who are considered to be severely immunocompromised, as outlined by the Department of Health – ATAGI recommendations on the use of a third primary dose of COVID-19 vaccine in individuals who are severely immunocompromised | Australian Government Department of Health 

Please note: People living with diabetes are not considered to be severely immunocompromised requiring an additional vaccination (which is in addition to a booster dose) unless they also have a health condition listed above. Please speak to your health professional should you require further information or call 1300 001 880. 

There is currently no evidence to suggest that people living with diabetes are at an increased risk of being infected with COVID-19.  Anyone could develop serious or severe illness from COVID-19, but those with long-term health conditions (including diabetes) or a weakened immune system are at greater risk. If your diabetes is not optimally managed, meaning your blood glucose levels are above your target range, this might also increase your risk of serious illness from COVID-19.  However,  the risk is not the same for everyone living with diabetes.   

Because there is community transmission of the virus, the Government has issued general advice for people who are more at risk of becoming severely unwell and this includes continuing to take reasonable precautions. This doesn’t necessarily mean people living with diabetes need to self-isolate but may need to consider what they can do to reduce their risk of contracting COVID-19 and do what they can to manage their diabetes to reduce the risk of becoming unwell. Diabetes WA recommends that you consider your own situation and assess your own risk by speaking with your health care team. For more information on risk factors for severe illness visit the Australian Government Department of Health.  

Reasonable precautions include:  

For anyone living with diabetes, we recommend that you remain prepared in case of infection – see ‘Be Prepared’ section below. WA COVID Care at Home is a free, home monitoring service for people who have tested positive to COVID-19, who require extra care or are at greater risk of hospitalisation. You will need to register for the service. 

If you are concerned about your risk, we recommend you talk to your health care team or call the Diabetes WA Helpline and Telehealth service on 1300 001 880. 

We know many people are nervous about COVID-19 and that might mean you have not visited your GP; that’s understandable but delaying regular diabetes checks is a health risk itself. Diabetes WA’s advice is to contact them to find out the steps they have taken to keep you safe.   

General practices are open, and while some things might look a little different on arrival, changes such as social distancing in the waiting room, screens at reception, some staff wearing masks or being asked to wait in your car until your appointment time, are all designed to keep everyone safe and well.  

GPs are working hard on two fronts to keep their patients safe. Firstly, consultations via telehealth are being widely used, and many issues can be managed safely this way. The GP clinics reception can advise on how to connect.  

However, not all health issues can be treated via telehealth and some people will need to visit their GP to be examined. In these situations, practices are ensuring they are safe for patients and staff with readily available hand gel, ensuring patients can maintain a safe distance from each other, and careful cleaning.  

Accessing health care in regional areas  

If you are finding it difficult to access the support and advice you need, you can call the free Diabetes WA Helpline and Telehealth service which connects you with a diabetes educator, dietitian, nurse, exercise physiologist or pharmacist over the phone or on your computer.   

  • Phone for a chat, ask a question or choose an extended free telehealth appointment. We connect you to local and online services, including  MyDESMOND, our type 2 diabetes online education program.  
  • If you are new to telehealth, our support team will walk you through the process and will keep your GP updated.  
  • Phone 1300 001 880 Monday to Friday.  
  • Or the visit the website to request a call back. 

During times of quarantine or isolation it is important to look after your physical and mental health. Studies have shown that periods of isolation and lockdowns have negatively affected physical activity levels and mental health and increased sedentary behaviour. The effect of the pandemic on dietary habits is mixed. While many studies show unfavourable changes to eating practices during COVID-19 lockdowns, some studies suggest food consumption was reduced and more people were cooking more nutritious meals from home.  

Being physically active and eating well has many benefits to general health, mental health, well-being, diabetes management, and can reduce the risk of long-term effects of diabetes. We also know that being more physically active can improve our immune system.

We now know that carrying extra weight may also put us at greater risk of experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms. On average people’s daily step counts reduced by approximately 2000 steps per day during lockdowns, which equated to a reduction in daily energy expenditure of about 400kJ, or 1.5-2kg weight gain over lockdown periods. Finding ways to maintain activity, particularly in quarantine or isolation can be challenging but here is a list of activities you can do around the home to burn off about 400kJ. Live Lighter has a number of simple home exercise plans for all activity levels, check them out here. Another way to manage a change in your energy expenditure is to eat slightly less if you are less active. You may choose to cut out 400kJ per day. Here is a list of discretionary foods containing about 400kJ.  

One of the greatest defences for people living with diabetes is to maintain blood glucose levels within target ranges. This can reduce the risk of experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms. Physical activity and eating well are great tools to manage blood glucose levels. You can find some great tips on how to use activity and food to manage blood glucose levels in Diabetes WA’s factsheets. 

If you would like advice on increasing your activity or healthy eating, either:  

  • visit your GP, or  
  • phone the Diabetes WA Helpline and Telehealth service on 1300 001 880 where you can speak with one of our credentialled diabetes educators  
  • See our dual qualified accredited exercise physiologist and diabetes educator at Perth Physical Activity and Diabetes Institute. Telehealth appointments are available upon request   

 Useful links  

Read our tips on how to eat healthily if you are still isolating here.  

Signup to our Let’s Prevent newsletter for regular exercise and food tips, or one of our other newsletters, here. 

For people living with diabetes, it is very important to have a sick day plan and to make additional preparations in case you become unwell.  

The restrictions in the first half of 2020 produced a growth in use of telehealth services by GPs and other health professionals because of changes to Medicare which now allows telehealth services from your doctor, nurse or mental health professional via phone or videoconference. If you haven’t already, find out if you can access telehealth services through your normal health care team. Find out more about accessing healthcare services in case of a further COVID-19 outbreak. 

Ensure you have sufficient supplies for 7 days in case you need to self-quarantine. This includes ensuring you have adequate prescriptions, medications and diabetes supplies and your chosen hypoglycaemia treatment. We also recommend checking that your blood glucose meter works if you haven’t used it for a while and that you have a backup battery and enough strips.   

You can buy medications and other supplies from your local pharmacy or your local NDSS product stock list. The Diabetes WA online shop is also stocked with diabetes products (excluding medications), including blood glucose monitors, lancets, test strips, needles and syringes and other related products. You can order online by  visiting the online shop or by calling the Diabetes WA Helpline on 1300 001 880.   

Diabetes Australia continues to encourage people with diabetes not to stockpile medications or diabetes products. This will help ensure there are enough products available for everyone with diabetes who needs them. 

  • For the latest information on COVID-19 and the NDSS, please visit the NDSS website 

If you are in WA and experiencing difficulties accessing your NDSS product supply, please telephone the Diabetes WA Helpline on 1300 001 880.   

WA COVID Care at Home is a free, home monitoring service for people who have tested positive to COVID-19, who require extra care or are at greater risk of hospitalisation. You will need to register for the service. 

People living with diabetes need a plan to closely manage their blood glucose levels and adjust their medication when they are unwell.  

Blood glucose levels change when your body is fighting an infection or illness.  You may require medication to manage your blood glucose levels or adjustments to your current medications.  People that require insulin may notice a more significant effect on their blood glucose levels than others.  

Higher blood glucose levels may occur when you have a high temperature >37.5 degrees and/or are unwell with illnesses such as the flu.  Your immune system may require more energy to fight off the infection and your liver will release more glucose into your blood stream.  Additionally, stress hormones released during periods of illness may stop your insulin from doing its job.   For people on insulin or some oral diabetes medications, lower blood glucose levels may also occur if they have a poor appetite or experience vomiting or diarrhoea.  

If you do not have a sick day plan, or to review your plan, please read:  

For more information on who to see about getting or reviewing your own Sick Day Plan, you can speak with a Credentialled Diabetes Educator on the Diabetes WA Helpline on 1300 001 880.  

Practical Considerations 

  • Ensure you have current contact details for your health care team and a reliable way to communicate with them if you need to self-isolate.  
  • Keep your Medicare, NDSS, Private health, Concession Cards and Numbers together.  
  • Write down the names and doses of all your medications.  
  • If you have type 1 diabetes, record your correction and carbohydrate ratios to assist health providers in giving advice on medication adjustments.  
  • If you are on an insulin pump, record your basal rate, correction and carbohydrate ratios, together with your average total daily dosage of insulin. These may be useful if you need to change to insulin injections for any reason.  
  • Vaccinations – to reduce your risk of having to cope with both COVID-19 and other illnesses at the same time, the WA Department of Health advice is that people should continue to get flu and pneumonia vaccinations as applicable and when they are made available. As always if you have any concerns about any of this information you should consult your doctor.  
  • If you live alone make sure someone you can rely on knows you have diabetes as you may require assistance if you get ill. This could be a family member, friend or health professional.  

Being isolated can be stressful and hard to manage. Learn more about how to manage isolation.  

Looking after your mental health is an important part of staying healthy. The Commonwealth Government’s Head to Health website is the best place to start if you need some help coping with anxiety and worry about coronavirus.  

You can also visit the new Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service being provided by Beyond Blue.  

Diabetes WA has helped the WA Department of Health to produce an information sheet about COVID-19 for people living with diabetes and other endocrine conditions. Go to information sheet. 

The NDSS also has updated information about how the scheme is supporting people living with diabetes at this time.  

The Commonwealth Government has also published Advice for people with chronic conditions 

WA Health also has a range of advice for taking precautions and staying healthy. 

Further information on COVID-19 and diabetes 

Diabetes WA has helped the WA Department of Health to produce an information sheet about COVID-19 for people living with diabetes and other endocrine conditionsGo to information sheet. 

The NDSS also has updated information about how the scheme is supporting people living with diabetes at this time. 

The Commonwealth Government has also published Advice for people with chronic conditions 

WA Health also has a range of advice for taking precautions and staying healthy.

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