2012-09-19

Sick? Stay Home

I have an open request to anyone who might be feeling ill today: Please stay home and rest up. Please don't go to work, please don't go to the grocery store, please don't run errands, please don't meet your friends for coffee, please don't go anywhere. Just stay home.

Full disclosure: My sister, who is excellent about staying home, inspired this post. But it's not because I'm writing directly to her. Rather, her falling ill reminded me that this is an important topic, one that I have been meaning to write about for a long time. So I am using this recent experience as a springboard here.

We're More Susceptible
Okay. Here's what non-diabetics don't know about diabetics. The fact that our blood sugar tends to be slightly elevated all the time puts our bodies in a moderate state of stress all the time. Part of this is excess cortisol, part of it is mild dehydration, part of it is comparatively poor absorbtion of vitamins and minerals...

In short, there are a multitude of factors that all contribute to a weaker-than-normal immune system. This is why our doctors recommend that we get flu shots, plenty of sleep, and maintain very good diets. We catch colds more easily than do you non-diabetics, much more easily. So while a mild cold that you choose to fight through may not have a significant impact on the majority of your friends and colleagues, if you know anyone who is diabetic, you are basically choosing to give them a cold by seeing them socially or professionally.

And that's not nice. It's not even "just rude." Frankly, it's mean. Why would you choose to deliberately give someone a cold?

Of course, you may not have known this about diabetics prior to reading this blog post, so you can be foregiven your prior transgressions. But you know it now, so stop doing it. Period.

Thanks!

It's Also A Lot Worse For Us
Even if you think your cold is just "the sniffles," some minor annoyance that you can't be bothered to keep out of society for a little while, there is something else you need to know about diabetics.

As you may have heard, diabetics are supposed to wear nice socks all the time. Why? Because, like everyone, if our feet dry out, the skin cracks, or we get blisters, or something. Basically, all the normal things that happen to human feet happens to diabetic feet, too. But if it's normal, why do we need special socks?

We need them because even small sores cause major problems for diabetics. The reason for this is because slightly elevated blood sugar does long-term damage to capillaries and the circulatory system. Blood, of course, is what carries white blood cells (duh) throughout the body to fight off infections. Blood cleans wounds and fights off infection. Blood is a very good thing.

So, because diabetic bodies have a damaged circulatory system, every small wound that takes days to heal for normal people can take weeks to heal for diabetics. In some cases, such foot wounds don't just take a long time to heal - they never heal. This is what happens to diabetics who have to have limbs amputated. What started out as a simple sore became so serious that the person had to undergo amputation to survive.

What's true of foot sores is also true of viruses and bacteria. When diabetics get sick, even with something that feels mild to you, it is incredibly serious for us. I catch a cold, and it's an automatic two-day stay-at-home session for me. Automatic. If I catch something worse than a cold, then I end up being ill for a month or more.

And it need not be understated: What would be a significant cold or flu for you could well prove fatal for your diabetic friends.

Understand? Good. Then stay home.