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Home Alone and Sick

Safely Managing Your Type 1 Diabetes On Your Own

An illness (such as a flu or bout of diarrhea and vomiting) can make it challenging to manage diabetes. If you ignore your diabetes while you are sick or don’t know how to safely manage it, you may develop diabetic ketoacidosis – a condition that can cause death.

So when you are home alone and sick, you need to have a plan and the necessary supplies. Know the “10 Safety Rules for Illness Management” and have a copy available for when you are feeling unwell.

The most important thing to remember when you are sick is never stop taking insulin!

Illness Management Supplies

Keep the following supplies in an “illness management kit” (shoe box or plastic container) so they are ready when you need them:

  • A printed hard-copy of “10 Safety Rules for Illness Management”
  • A new package of ketone testing strips. (Remember: You will need to check your urine or blood for ketones every time your blood sugar is above 14.0 mmol/L.)
    • Blood ketone test strips are preferable, as they are more accurate than urine ketone testing, and reflect current ketone levels (vs. urine ketone testing, which reflects ketone levels a few hours prior to testing).
  • An extra bottle of blood glucose test strips.
  • A loud alarm clock. You will need to wake every 2 to 4 hours to check your blood sugar and ketones, drink fluids, and give extra insulin (if needed).
  • Regular and diet pop, Gatorade®/Powerade®, chicken noodle soup, and crackers.
  • Money for a taxi in case you need to go to the Emergency Department.
  • A list of phone numbers for:
    • Your diabetes health care team
    • The on-call diabetes doctor or nurse
    • A health information line, such as Health Link
    • A family member who is knowledgeable about diabetes
    • A friend you can call for help

Illness Management Plan

Review “10 Safety Rules for Illness Management” when you are sick.

Do not ignore your diabetes and simply go to bed.

Check your blood glucose and check your urine (or blood) for ketones every 2 to 4 hours around the clock.

*High Blood sugar and ketones mean you need more insulin.

Call your diabetes team or go to the Emergency Department if you vomit more than 2 times in 4 hours.


The above information was adapted with permission from The Alberta Children’s Hospital Diabetes Clinic information handouts.

The above information was reviewed for content accuracy by clinical staff of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Diabetes Clinic.

This material has been developed from sources that we believe are accurate, however, as the field of medicine (in particular as it applies to diabetes) is rapidly evolving, the information should not be relied upon, as it is designed for informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of medical advice, instruction and/or treatment. If you have specific questions, please consult your doctor or appropriate health care professional.

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