Type 1 Diabetes and COVID-19: How to Prepare for a Potential Hospitalization in the Midst of a Pandemic

Whether it’s related to COVID-19 or not, you might need to be hospitalized before the end of the current pandemic. It’s important that you don’t avoid going to the hospital when necessary because you might be afraid of contracting an infection. All establishments follow strict governmental guidelines to limit the spread of the virus on site and have developed strategies to quickly triage potential cases of COVID-19 or other contagious diseases.

Managing your diabetes when hospitalized

Although all medical and nursing staff receive at least some basic training on type 1 diabetes, they might not necessarily know about all of its particularities or be aware of the latest available technology, such as insulin pumps or CGMs. But you shouldn’t hesitate to tell the hospital staff what you need. It might also be helpful to let your healthcare team know that you’re hospitalized so they can contact the hospital staff and help plan your care.

Most hospitals must follow specific protocols for type 1 diabetes. For instance, if you use an insulin pump, you’ll have to manage it yourself. If you’re unable to do that or if the care you need requires changes that are too frequent or too difficult to implement (due to fasting, anesthesia, etc.), your pump treatment will probably be suspended and you will receive insulin injections.

Health Canada recently allowed the use of FreeStyle Libre and Dexcom G6 system values by hospital staff for care decisions in order to limit movements in and out of patients’ rooms. This will reduce the risk of pathogen transmission from one patient to another as well as the use of gloves and masks, which are scarce right now. However, hypoglycemic results will still need to be confirmed with a capillary blood sugar reading (finger prick), just like when using a FreeStyle Libre system at home.

“What should I bring?”

If you or a loved one with type 1 diabetes need to go to the hospital, we recommend that you bring the following: 

  • Your insulin and other medications and prescriptions;
  • Syringes and/or needles or supplies for your insulin pump (if applicable); 
  • Glucometer, strips and needles for your lancing device and/or CGM (if applicable);
  • Fast-absorbing sugars such as juice or glucose tablets and glucagon;
  • Ketone test strips and a meter that measures ketone bodies (if applicable);
  • Batteries or charger for your pump/glucometer/CGM (if applicable);
  • Your insulin treatment details on a sheet (basal rate, insulin-to-carb ratios, insulin sensitivity factors, total daily dose, etc.);
  • Contact information for your healthcare team;
  • Smartphone, tablet or laptop to keep in touch with your loved ones, if you wish to do so. 

If YOU or YOUR CHILD are living with type 1 diabetes in Quebec,

sign up for the BETTER registry today!

Useful links

Template to fill in for the description of your treatment

Template to fill for insulin pump carriers

BETTER article about preventive measures against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and type 1 diabetes

BETTER section on COVID-19 and type 1 diabetes related news

Abbott’s press release

Upcoming Event