COVID-19 and Diabetes

Critical information for people living with diabetes and their direct contacts

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

Since mid-March, Government advice for vulnerable people including those with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, has been to take precautions and self-isolate.  In phases from 27 April, this advice changed due to the reduced risk of infection of COVID-19 in WA. 

The following advice is intended to inform and support people living with diabetes, their loved ones and their health professionals to understand what the latest government advice means for them. 

Commentary is developed by Diabetes WA, based on advice from the Western Australian Government – aligned to the COVID19 coronavirus: WA Roadmap and the Commonwealth Government’s Advice for people with chronic conditions  

What’s changed?

Restrictions in WA have been relaxed in phases as part of WA’s roadmap. 

The easing of restrictions by the WA Government is due to the continued low number of new COVID-19 cases and supports the process of restarting the State’s economy by helping to get many Western Australians safely back to work. 

The current health advice is that the community can cautiously continue to reopen or increase capacity of certain venues and facilities, and increase indoor and outdoor non-work gatherings while of course continuing to practise physical distancing and good personal hygiene.

You can read more about the changes at COVID19 coronavirus: WA Roadmap.  

For people living with diabetesthere is currently no evidence to date that they are at an increased risk of being infected with COVID-19.    

However, some people living with diabetes who contract COVID-19 may be at an increased risk of becoming more unwell. However, the risk is not the same for everyone living with diabetes.  

Those at increased risk of becoming more unwell, experiencing  more severe symptoms and taking longer to recover include those:

  • aged 70 years or over
  • aged 65 years or over and have a chronic medical condition (such as diabetes)
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and over who has a chronic medical condition
  • those with elevated blood glucose levels or people who are immuno suppressed

There is still little evidence that children or young people with type 1 diabetes who develop COVID-19 experience severe symptoms of the disease. 

The Government has issued general advice for vulnerable people living with diabetes or another chronic condition, or for those who are unwell, to continue to take precautions.   

The Government clearly states that transmission of the virus is still possible, and people should not become complacent with their social distancing and personal hygiene. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean everyone should keep self-isolating. The risk of contracting the virus has reduced considerably, and the risk of getting ill if you contract COVID-19 is different for everyone.   

Diabetes WA recommends that you consider your own situation, assess your own risk and your level of comfort in transitioning back to regular life. 

For anyone living with diabetes, we recommend that you remain prepared in case of infection – see ‘Be Prepared’ section below. 

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.

 

 

It’s reasonable to continue to have concerns about the risk of contracting COVID-19, whether engaging with the community, visiting your health professional again, returning to work or school or exercising outdoors more often. 

However, Diabetes WA strongly recommends that people living with diabetes return to contacting their usual health care team.  This is especially important if self-isolation has meant that you haven’t accessed professional advice for any health issues you may have experienced. 

The general public are being cautiously encouraged to return to public places but in a way that minimises the risk of infection for everyone.   Everyone is advised to continue practicing social distancing when outside their homes. It is recommended to stay 1.5m away from others where possible and maintain good personal hygiene. 

There is considerable effort across the community to minimise the risk of contracting COVID-19. Diabetes WA recommends anyone with continuing concerns to contact their employer and their health professional to establish what actions they have taken to reduce risk.  

The Government has released an app which works on most smartphones and improves tracing of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and who they have been in contact with.  This helps them quickly contact those who may have been exposed and seek any required help. It is completely voluntary and is something you can do to protect you, your family and friends and keep the community safe. The more Australians that connect to the COVIDSafe app, the quicker virus infections can be identified. Find out more here. 

GPs are reporting that many Western Australians have been delaying regular checks – a fact supported by a recently reported 40% reduction in blood testing in pathology labs across Australia and a 75% reduction in HbA1c testingThat’s understandable because of COVID-19 concerns but is also a health risk.  

If you have put your regular health checks on hold during the pandemic, now’s the time to see your GP or specialist. Right now, it’s important to stay healthy and get the prescriptions, screening or care you need.  

We know many people are nervous about COVID-19 and that might mean you have not visited your GP. 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 safe to visit in person, 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. For those 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 

Most regional travel restrictions have been lifted, except into remote communities. This may help some people travel to seek support and care which may not have been previously possible. 

If you are still 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 new 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 visit the website to request a call back.  

When should I return to work? 

The Government encourages Western Australians to return to work as soon as possible. The cautious easing of these restrictions will mean more people can return to work, though there will still be some exceptions. 

If you’re unsure about whether to return to work, contact your employer to discuss your workplace plan. 

What should I do if I’m concerned my workplace is not safe? 

In the first instance, you should discuss your concerns with your employer and discuss ways to alleviate them. The Commonwealth Government suggests asking for a workplace risk assessment. 

If after discussing the matter with your employer you’re still concerned, you may wish to get further advice and/or contact a workplace advocate. 

  • Worksafe WA – 1300 307 877 
  • Fair Work Ombudsman – 13 13 94 
  • Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission – (08) 9420 4444 
  • Australian Unions – 1300 486 466 

What if I’m unhappy with the conditions of my return to work? 

In the first instance, you should discuss your concerns with your employer and discuss ways to alleviate them. 

If you’re dissatisfied, you may wish to seek further advice and/or contact a workplace advocate. 

  • Worksafe WA – 1300 307 877 
  • Fair Work Ombudsman – 13 13 94 
  • Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission – (08) 9420 4444 
  • Australian Unions – 1300 486 466 

From Monday 18 May, all Western Australian public school students required to return to school.  

The exception is where a student cannot attend school based on medical advice for them or a member of their household. These students will continue to learn from home and will be supported by their schools and the Department of Education. 

Schools, both public and private, have put considerable effort into maintaining high standards of hygiene, reducing direct contact and structuring activities.  Read more here. 

The State Government is investing in additional teachers to support those students who for medical reasons will learn from home and specialist staff will be employed to help students reconnect with their school. 

Private and Catholic schools have been making similar arrangements but their timetable for returning students may be slightly different. 

Diabetes WA’s advice is to contact your school directly to find out what arrangements are in place to reduce risk to students.  

National Diabetes in Schools program 

Diabetes WA administers type 1 diabetes and type 2  support programs in schools and childcare providers. The National Diabetes in Schools program provides nationally consistent information, training and support for schools and families to better support students with type 1 diabetes at school. If your school is not yet engaged in the program, you can provide them with the shareable link below so they can access the best available training to understand how to support your child at school. 

Shareable link: https://www.diabeteswa.com.au/professionals/training/diabetes-awareness-in-schools-2/ 

Useful links: 

If you require advice or support for your child’s education due to COVID-19, your school or Education Regional Office can assist you. For further advice or support phone 1800 882 345 (8.00am to 4.00pm weekdays) or email CoronaVirusSupport@education.wa.edu.au 

Isolating at home over the past two months has been difficult for many people – causing stress and anxiety.  As restrictions have eased there are more opportunities to see more people in group settings and at venues.   

To minimise risk to the community, venues and businesses across hospitality, community and cultural venues, and sport and recreation sectors are required to complete an official COVID Safety Plan. 

A mandatory AHA Hospitality and Tourism COVID-19 hygiene training program has been launched to prepare the hospitality industry for a return to business. This specialised training course will need to be successfully completed by every staff member employed at a hospitality venue — with businesses only allowed to reopen when the requirements are met. 

Businesses will also have to display signage that the venue is compliant with all conditions.   

Existing social distancing regulations for hospitality businesses remain in place, with any future easing of restrictions dependent on expert health advice. 

The easing of restrictions have increased opportunities for both indoor and outdoor exercise.

For those who have been isolating at home over the past months, exercise may have become increasingly difficult and healthy eating habits taken a temporary break.  The risk for people living with diabetes is that diabetes management can be impacted.  The benefits of exercise are plentiful: 

  • Helps you to manage your blood glucose levels and may reduce the amount of insulin required, for those using insulin. 
  • Lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease such as a heart attack or stroke  
  • For people with type 2 diabetes, helps combat insulin resistance. 
  • Improves energy levels and mental health. 

Diabetes WA strongly encourages everyone, including those living with diabetes, to be physically active and to eat a healthy, balanced diet. 

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 a dietician, diabetes educator or exercise physiologist.  Ask for a call back here. 

If you’re looking to find your 30 minutes of exercise while physically distancing try Diabetes WA’s Get on Track Challenge – a free, online program that pits teams against each other in a race around a virtual track.   

 Useful links 

Read our recent article on the benefits of running here, or tips on how to eat healthily if you are still isolating here. 

Signup to our Health Bites newsletter for regular exercise and food tips, or one of our other newslettershere. 

Even though the risk of contracting COVID-19 has reduced, for people living with diabetes it is very important to have a sick day plan. It is also important to make additional preparations in case you become unwell. 

Ensure you have sufficient supplies for 14 days in case you need to self-quarantine. This includes ensuring you have adequate prescriptions, medications and diabetes supplies, your chosen hypoglycaemia treatment which may be needed to manage your blood glucose levels, as well as adequate supplies of food in your pantry, fridge and freezer. 

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 stockist. The Diabetes WA online shop is also stocked with diabetes products (other than 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.  

Ordering supplies  

Reports from NDSS Access Points across Australia is that despite some temporary issues with wholesaler supply of NDSS products, there are no current known issues. 

The Diabetes WA online shop is an NDSS Access Point, along with your local pharmacy. You can order online for home delivery at www.shop.diabeteswa.com.au 

Diabetes WA does not supply insulin or other medicines.  Please contact your local pharmacy for supplies.  You should also visit the NDSS website  for more specific advice. 

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

Please note that due to previous concerns about supply of some products, the NDSS currently has temporary measures to ensure availability for everyone: 

  1. People can now order three (3) boxes of NDSS products including blood glucose monitoring strips, urine monitoring strips, pen needles, and syringes.  
  1.  There is also a limit of two (2) boxes for insulin pump consumables (IPCs) for any order. This includes: 
  • 2 x boxes of infusion setsor cannulas (an average supply for two months) 
  • 2 x boxes of reservoirs/ cartridges (an average supply for two months). 

Access to continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) and Flash GM (FreeStyle Libre) products through the NDSS remain unchanged.  

For the vast majority of people living with diabetes, these limits represent well over one month’s supply.  

  • There may be some exceptions where people may need more than these supply amounts, such as people living remotely. People who need to order more than these amounts should contact the NDSS Helpline on 1800 637 700.  

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

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 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: 

 If you want help with reviewing your 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. 

In addition to support from your usual health care team, you can access free advice from Diabetes WA over the phone or online. 

Diabetes WA Helpline and Telehealth service 

The free service connects you with a diabetes educator, dietitian, nurse, exercise physiologist and 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 new 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. 
  • Just phone 1300 001 880 between 8.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday 
  • Or visit the webpage to request a call back.  

Diabetes WA LIVE 

A series of educational webinars covering many relevant topics and presented by our health professional team. See what’s on or book online.  

MyDESMOND 

MyDESMOND is a new online type 2 diabetes self-management education program now available at Diabetes WARegister online or call 1300 001 880 to get started. 

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 

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