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 21 October 2020 at 4pm.

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, visit:

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 21Oct]

The government have introduced a new three tiered system of local alert levels across the United Kingdom. Each area will be set at a medium, high or very high level. However, the advice for people living with diabetes across the UK has not changed:

  • stay at home as much as possible
  • minimise contact with people outside of your household if you live within an area where you’re still allowed to meet inside other people’s homes
  • follow social distancing measures at all times. This includes keeping 2 metres apart from other people where possible
  • wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds
  • wear a face covering (see below)
  • remember – if you’re already self-isolating or shielding keep following those rules
  • download the relevant COVID-19 app for your country (see below)

If you have diabetes and you’re planning on inviting friends or family into your home (if you’re allowed to do so within your area), speak to them about whether they have had coronavirus symptoms in the last 2 weeks. However mild these symptoms, they shouldn’t be visiting. Find out more about these changes on the Government website.

We also recommend downloading the NHS COVID-19 app if you are in England or Wales, the Test & Protect app if you’re in Scotland, or the StopCOVID NI app in Northern Ireland. These are contact tracing apps which are one of the fastest ways of knowing when you’re at risk from coronavirus. The more of us that use it, the better we can control coronavirus.

It is possible that masks or face coverings can help reduce and slow the risk of virus infection. This is true for everyone, including people living with type 1 diabetes.

There are exemptions for some groups from wearing face coverings but this varies depending on where you live. For more information, keep up to date with your national government websites around face coverings:

If you see others not wearing a mask, there may be invisible reasons for this. For those that are exempt from wearing a face covering, there are badges and cards that can be printed or saved onto your phone. You can find these on the Government website.

We understand that wearing a face mask can take time to get used to and may feel strange to start off with. There are various different types of face coverings available, so try and choose one that suits you best.

Shielding advice [updated 21Oct]

Shielding is a way of protecting ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ people who are at a very high risk of severe illness and needing to go to hospital if they catch coronavirus. It means staying at home almost all of the time, with no face-to-face contact.

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 clinically extremely vulnerable here. People with diabetes are in the ‘clinically vulnerable group’. So, having diabetes doesn’t automatically mean you needed to shield.

Shielding is currently paused in ScotlandWales and Northern Ireland.

It is also paused in England, but from 14 October it may start to be reintroduced in certain areas. This is because the government have introduced a new three tiered system of local alert levels across the country. Each area will be set at a medium, high or very high level. If you are clinically extremely vulnerable, you may be advised to take extra precautions depending on where you live. The advice for people who are clinically vulnerable hasn’t changed.

If you are concerned or worried about your risk, please reach out to your usual healthcare team, or the dedicated helpline mentioned above. And as always, as the rules are rapidly changing, please ensure you review the latest information on the UK Government website about shielding.

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 20Jul]

It is important if you have symptoms, however mild, that you follow all the latest advice.

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.

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 12Aug]

Everyone, including children with diabetes, can get coronavirus. Usually children 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 a child’s diabetes and they still have a risk of DKA. It is therefore very important that you make sure children follow all social distancing and hand washing recommendations to reduce their risk of catching it.

Schools should be practicing social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus. We know this is easier said than done based on the size of the school and particularly with younger children.

We understand you may be worried about the safety of children returning to school if they have type 1 diabetes. As always, reach out to your usual healthcare team and your school about your concerns. The school should be able to explain their processes for risk assessments and policies to keep everyone safe.

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.

Work [updated 23Sep]

Current Government advice is to work from home wherever possible, however, if you do need to be in a physical work location your employer should be making sure your workplace is safe to minimise any potential risk to employees, including completing a risk assessment for you. We understand not everyone feels comfortable going back to a physical office – ensure you reach out to your employer to learn about the steps they’re implementing and to discuss your commute and adjustments that can be made, especially if you need to use public transport (such as avoiding rush hour). Also discuss whether continuing to work from home is a possibility. You may also find our Workplace Toolkit useful to help aide these discussions.

Travel [updated 25Aug]

The coronavirus pandemic has meant a massive change in the way we live, and ultimately that includes our motivations and ability to travel. We know this has meant a lot of cancelled holidays and events abroad.

Currently, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is advising British nationals against all but essential international travel. There are some countries that this doesn’t apply to currently, because they’re not seen as a high risk. Check out the UK Government website regarding travel for all the latest information.

For more information about travelling with type 1 see our travel pages. You may also like to explore our airport security work and travelling with type 1 kit.

Additional information

This page will be updated as official advice changes. It is maintained by JDRF UK’s Community Engagement team and is reviewed/approved by healthcare professionals.

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