Going high? Mealtime challenges and hyperglycaemia (hypers)
The experience of living under lockdown due to COVID-19 has created
new and varied challenges for us all. How can I continue to work
during isolation? How do I look after and home school my children?
What can I do to maintain my physical and mental health? These are
just some of the questions we are all seeking to answer, and the
impact on our lives and daily routines is significant.
This is especially true for those living with long-term conditions
requiring careful monitoring and management, such as diabetes.
Changing patterns of eating and exercising, reduced access to regular
medical support, and coping with the stress of the current situation
can all have an impact on how effectively you manage your condition.
Eating the wrong food, difficulty in being able to exercise in your
usual way, or forgetting a dose of your medication can potentially put
you at risk of experiencing high blood sugar levels, also known as
hyperglycaemia or “hypers.”
This article provides information to help you understand the signs
of experiencing a hyper, as well as some ideas for how you can try to
prevent your blood sugar levels from getting above your optimal range.
How to spot a hyper – common symptoms
The most common symptoms of experiencing a hyper include:
tiredness and lethargy
passing more urine than usual
being very thirsty
You may experience one or more of these symptoms when your blood
sugar levels are high, or a family member or friend might mention that
you do not quite seem your usual self.
It may take a few days or weeks for the symptom(s) to develop while
some people may not show any symptoms despite elevated blood sugar
levels, specifically those who have had diabetes for a longer period.
As very high blood sugar levels can lead to serious complications,
it is therefore very important to regularly check your blood sugar at
home. This is easy to manage and should only be started following a
discussion with your doctor or nurse. They can advise whether home
monitoring is suitable for you and the available options, explain what
you need to do, and how often. Should you notice that your blood sugar
level is elevated during home monitoring, consult with your doctor or nurse.
More information on hyperglycaemia, its symptoms and potential
impact can be found on the Diabetes UK website.
Helping reduce the risk of hypers
Having a daily routine is one of the best ways to help you adapt to
your new life during this unprecedented situation. As you are likely
to be preparing most of your meals at home, you may even find it
easier to manage your mealtimes and the amount of insulin you may need.
Creating a daily routine, planning your mealtimes and trying to
avoid snacking, plus having planned time to check your blood sugar
levels and take your insulin will help you to spend more time within
your ideal blood sugar range and help to reduce the risk of hypers.
Try to still exercise at home if you cannot get outside much – even
10 minutes a day of physical activity will be beneficial to your
physical and mental wellbeing. There are many online fitness classes
that you may wish to try. More ideas can be found in the “Exercise
and type 2 diabetes” article.
Coping with stressful times
Prolonged periods of emotional stress can also lead to changes in
blood sugar levels. If you’re feeling stressed, your body releases
stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones make it
harder for insulin to regulate blood sugar level properly and can lead
to an increase in your blood sugar level.
Therefore, it is recommended to try to manage your stress levels
during this challenging time by doing things you like or that help you
relax, such as reading, meditating, yoga, or perhaps something
creative like drawing and painting. Spending time with any pets you
may have can also help ease any worries and stress.
If you start to feel unwell or notice some of the typical symptoms of
hypers, first check your blood sugar levels. If your blood sugar
levels are too high, you will need to consult with your doctor to
adjust your medication(s) accordingly.
There are many potential causes for hypers, including:
Not using enough or missing a dose of your insulin or other diabetes medication(s)
Eating more carbohydrates than your routine eating plan
Feeling emotionally stressed
Being unwell due to an
infection or injury
If you experience frequent high blood sugar levels, you can also try
to remember to:
Check your blood sugar more often than usual, specifically
before and after your meals
Look for patterns in your blood
sugar results to understand what might be causing it
If you are having difficulties in controlling your blood sugar
levels and they are regularly too high, it’s important to speak to
your doctor or nurse. They can offer tips and advice, or they may
need to adjust your medication(s).
This is general disease awareness and should not be understood as
medical advice. If you experience symptoms of COVID-19 or have
questions, doubts or concerns, you should contact your doctor.
Always follow the advice of local authorities.
In this article you will find links to third-party material not
owned or controlled by Novo Nordisk. We are not responsible for the
content or the accuracy of the information provided and have no
Ideas for how to manage your blood sugar during the COVID-19 crisis, to
help you stay within your optimal blood sugar range and reduce the risk
of getting low blood sugar level, which is also called hypoglycaemia or