JDRF, the type 1 diabetes charityCoronavirus (COVID-19) – information for people living with type 1 diabetes

Coronavirus (COVID-19) – information for people living with type 1 diabetes

Updated 1 Jun 2020 at 2.30pm.

Global headlines are dominated by news about the novel coronavirus. We know that many people with type 1 diabetes want more information and may be concerned.

Below are some useful links and information about the virus and what people with type 1 diabetes need to know.

New changes to each section have an [updated] date next to their title.

For all the latest Government measures, go to www.gov.uk/coronavirus

What is it?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses. Most of them cause illness in animals, but seven known types of coronaviruses cause illness in humans. SARS-CoV-2 is one of those viruses – it causes the illness COVID-19. Since the virus causing COVID-19 is new, a vaccine to prevent it hasn’t been developed yet.

What are the symptoms? [updated 18May]

The symptoms of coronavirus are any of the following:

  • A new, continuous cough
  • A high temperature (fever)
  • Loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

Anyone in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland experiencing symptoms can book a test by visiting www.nhs.uk/coronavirus

Those unable to access the Internet can call 119 in England and Wales or 0300 303 2713 in Scotland and Northern Ireland to book a test.

Coronavirus and type 1 diabetes [updated 23May]

We know that the news headlines about the emerging NHS data on COVID-19 and deaths relating to diabetes are concerning. That’s why JDRF has reacted to this by posting our news article.

Not everyone living with type 1 diabetes is at higher risk of becoming severely unwell with coronavirus, or of having complications from it. However, some, especially those who are older or with underlying risk factors, which include other health conditions, social factors or ethnic minority groups, may be more severely affected and everyone is encouraged to follow the government advice closely.

Our comments on recent initial data are mentioned here. As further work emerges on risk factors and more specific guidance is available, we will share it. The higher risk in people with type 1 diabetes in hospital is strongly linked to older age, which is consistent with what we know about the impact of coronavirus on the general population.

All people living with diabetes have been advised to implement stringent social distancing measures. It is very important that you adhere to these and that you’re prepared by ensuring you have adequate medical supplies and consumables available, including access to ketone testing strips.

Dedicated diabetes helpline [updated 20May]

NHS Diabetes Programme, alongside Diabetes UK and industry partners Novo Nordisk and Insulet have created a National Diabetes Advice line which provides free, immediate clinical advice for type 1 and other types of diabetes (in case your local team aren’t contactable).

You can access this through Diabetes UK’s helpline by:

  • Calling: 0345 123 2399, Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm
  • Email: helpline@diabetes.org.uk
  • If you’re in Scotland call: 0141 212 8710, Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm. Email: helpline.scotland@diabetes.org.uk

Reducing your risk [updated 1Jun]

As you will be aware, the UK Government has recently begun to ease some lockdown restrictions in England. However, the advice for people living with diabetes across the UK is still to stay at home as much as possible and to minimise contact with people outside of your household, where possible. Only go out for:

  • Basic necessities such as food and medicine
  • Exercise
  • Any medical need or to care for a vulnerable person
  • Going to and from work, but only if you cannot work from home

At all times when you are outside, for any of the above reasons, you should still try to follow all social distancing measures. This includes keeping 2 metres apart from other people, and washing your hands as soon as you get home.

If you are already self-isolating or following shielding advice (see below), continue to follow these rules unless you are informed otherwise.

Shielding advice [updated 1Jun]

You may have also heard about shielding measures introduced by the Government to protect ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ people who are at a very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19. It means staying at home almost all of the time, with no face-to-face contact. You can go outside once a day with the person you live with, or one person from another household if you live on your own. If you are shielding and do meet someone outside, make sure you follow stringent social distancing.

Unless they have another condition, most people with type 1 diabetes are not in the shielding category; you can view more detail about those who are defined as extremely vulnerable here. People with diabetes are in the ‘clinically vulnerable group’. This means you should still stay at home as much as possible and if you do go out, be really careful to avoid contact with people you don’t live with.

If you are concerned or worried about your risk, please reach out to your usual healthcare team, or the dedicated helpline mentioned above.

We know some people may not have friends and family able to help while they are isolated at home. The NHS Volunteer Responders scheme has been set up in England to do just that – with an army of volunteers helping with things like shopping and medication, as well as setting up phone chats to help with loneliness. People with diabetes who are isolated at home can now access this service. The number to call is 0808 196 3646 and you can get more information about the service on the NHS Volunteer Responders scheme website.

What should I do if I have any symptoms? [updated 18May]

It is important if you have symptoms, however mild, that you follow Public Health England guidelines to stay home for 7 days. If you live with other people, they should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person gets symptoms.

Ensure you continue to monitor your blood glucose and implement your sick day rules, checking for ketones more closely. Contact your diabetes specialist team if you feel you need additional support for your diabetes, or if you feel you might be at risk of developing DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis).

Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Only contact the NHS 111 service (by phone or online) if:

  • You feel like you cannot cope with your symptoms at home
  • Your condition gets worse
  • Your symptoms do not get better after 7 days

For any medical emergency, continue to call 999.

The Foreign Office advises everyone against non-essential travel. See more information here on the Government website for more information.

Prescriptions

We know these are challenging times, and getting hold of your prescriptions may be a concern. However, pharmacies across the country are working hard to make sure you can get hold of what you need. It’s important to plan ahead and to check levels of your prescription items, and where possible order at least 14 days ahead before your prescription is due. Ask your prescriber about electronic repeat dispensing, so you can order your repeat prescriptions online.

It’s important that you don’t go to a pharmacy if you, or anyone in your household, have any symptoms of Coronavirus. Many pharmacies offer an online service, and are encouraging customers to choose that method and have their medication delivered. You also don’t currently need to sign for these deliveries; check with your pharmacy for further details.

If you do need to collect your prescription, put your contact details on prescriptions so pharmacies can let you know when your medicines are ready, so you won’t need to be in the pharmacy for as long. Please don’t ring the pharmacy unless it’s urgent.

If you’re self-isolating, see if family, friends or neighbours can pick up your medication for you. If you don’t have anyone who can collect your medicine, speak to your community pharmacy for advice about how they can help. There might be community or voluntary groups ready to help in your area.

If you’re well and can visit the pharmacy yourself, think about how you can help family, friends and neighbours who are self-isolating by collecting their medicines on their behalf (you may need to take ID with you and will need to know the name and address of the person you are collecting for).

Don’t ask for extra medicine. Continue to get medicines as normal and don’t stockpile.

School [updated 1Jun]

Everyone, including children with diabetes, can get coronavirus. Usually they have very mild symptoms and we are not aware of any children with diabetes who have died from coronavirus in the UK. However, as with all people with diabetes, an illness like coronavirus can make it harder to manage your child’s diabetes and they still have a risk of DKA. It is therefore very important that you make sure your child follows all social distancing and hand washing recommendations to reduce their risk of catching it.

If you are a parent and you are a key worker, then you are able to keep taking your child to school.

And in some areas of the UK, the Government is starting a phased return of more children going back to school. This is happening in England first. Schools should be practicing social distancing for your child. This is to prevent the virus from spreading between children and your home. We know this is easier said than done, and can depend on how old your child is and the size of the school. Talk to the teaching staff if you don’t feel that social distancing is possible in your child’s school.

You may be worried about the safety of your child returning to school if they have diabetes. We recommend speaking to the school and to your child’s diabetes team about your concerns – they should be able to give you the information you need to help you make a decision.

The Association of Children’s Diabetes Clinicians have released a position statement around children returning to school which you can read here.

Insulin, medicines and diabetes tech

The Government has been working with industry and partners to constantly monitor the impact of COVID-19 on the UK supply chain of medicines and technology, and have implemented measures to protect UK patients. There is absolutely no need for anyone to stockpile insulin, diabetes medicines or technology. By doing so, you could risk others by putting additional pressure on the supply chain. Pharmacies have been asked to not support any patients who are trying to stockpile.

DTN-UK have been in contact with all companies supplying insulin pump, continuous glucose monitoring and flash glucose monitoring in the UK at this time. We can reassure all users of diabetes technology that none of these companies are anticipating significant interruptions to their supply chain due to the Coronavirus crisis. We would ask that people do not attempt to stockpile supplies of consumables as this is unnecessary and may create problems for other users. If demand remains as normal, there will be no shortages. Companies may experience short term supply problems with some items, as is usual, but if this occurs these are expected to resolve quickly. You will be contacted in the event that this situation changes. Some pump manufacturers have extended their pump warranties. If your pump’s warranty will expire in the next few months, check out the manufacturer’s website for more information. See more detail here.

Emotional Wellbeing during these times

We know the type 1 diabetes community are understandably worried and anxious about the virus, and how COVID-19 might affect you, your family or friends.

We have some helpful information on our Emotional Wellbeing page, or you may like to consider calling Diabetes UK’s helpline to talk to someone. The NHS ‘Every Mind Matters’ website has some useful and practical information, too.

Additional information

This page will be updated as official advice changes.

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These extraordinary times are new to us all but we will not stop in our efforts to cure type 1. Together with your support, we deliver life-changing breakthroughs for people with this condition. If you can, please consider making a gift to our Urgent Appeal and protect type 1 diabetes research today.

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