It’s important for everyone to get a flu shot every year, but it’s especially important for those with diabetes. That’s because people who have this condition have a higher risk of getting serious flu complications, such as pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections. The flu also can worsen diabetes control, as the immune system is less able to fight infections.
As well, having the flu can make it harder to control blood sugar levels: the actual illness might cause blood glucose levels to rise; conversely, people often don’t feel like eating when they are sick, which can cause blood glucose levels to fall.
There’s another important reason why people with diabetes should get the flu shot. Research findings published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed that the flu vaccine helped protect people with diabetes from heart disease and early death. In this study, people who were vaccinated against the flu were significantly less likely to be admitted to the hospital for strokes, heart failure, pneumonia or complications of the flu. They were also less likely to die from any cause.
Benefits of the flu shot
In previous clinical studies, the benefits of people with diabetes getting the flu shot have been clearly demonstrated. In a 10-year U.S. study, the flu vaccine was shown to significantly reduce both hospitalization and death due to influenza in a large group of study subjects that included people with diabetes. A Dutch study showed that people with diabetes who didn’t get the flu vaccine were twice as likely to have complications as those who did get it.
That’s why Diabetes Canada clinical practice guidelines recommend that people with diabetes should get the flu shot every year, to reduce the risk of complications associated with influenza.
One flu shot for life?
Scientists in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States are studying a universal flu vaccine that would offer lifetime protection against the flu virus. Unlike seasonal vaccines – which usually protect against three strains of the flu virus that are circulating in a particular year – the universal vaccine will still be effective even when the virus mutates. That’s because the universal vaccine targets an area of the virus that is the same among all types of flus, so it’s not susceptible to the virus changing. It is expected that this new vaccine could be available five to 10 years from now.
In Canada, flu season can start as early as October, and usually peaks between December and March, but can last as late as May. It’s a good idea to get your flu shot early in the flu season, to help protect yourself. However, you can get the flu shot any time during flu season.
Protect yourself and your loved ones by getting the flu shot!