Like the whole world, I lived the first lockdown with the apprehension of catching COVID. Everywhere you read that people with chronic illnesses were more at risk, which didn’t help to put things into perspective.
Type 1 diabetes and COVID-19: I tested positive. What happens next?
This summer, I started experiencing very mild symptoms, which at first seemed more like a cold. A slight cold and a sore throat.
However, the next day, I received a message: a person I’ve been in contact with has tested positive and other friends have symptoms. I immediately go to a laboratory to do a PCR test. The result comes back the next day, I’m positive. At that point, I am reassured:
- overall, I feel good, with a simple cold,
- my diabetes is balanced.
The lab tells me to make an appointment with my general practitioner. I see her immediately for a teleconsultation. She simply prescribes me paracetamol and rest, as well as a 14-day confinement. Equipped with my mask and with no other choice, I do some last drive-through shopping, one last trip to the pharmacy for my insulins and sensors, and I take advantage of the opportunity to fill up on vitamins, zinc and essential oils. I am ready to isolate myself.
A physical and psychological impact
In the following days, symptoms develop. I still have a cold, to which are added intense headaches, sore throats, discomfort in the lungs, and especially extreme fatigue. I finally lose my sense of taste and smell two days later.
If we consider the day of the first symptoms as D+4 after the supposed COVID contact, from D+8 to D+14, I am at my worst. I stay in bed for 2 days. There is nothing to do except rest and take care of myself. I take herbal teas with thyme and honey, vitamins B and C, zinc, and I breathe every day a mixture of essential oils supposed to facilitate the return of the sense of smell.
Being deprived of my senses has a real psychological impact. Not being able to smell and taste my meals depresses me terribly. When you are sick, confined and working remotely, meal breaks are supposed to be a rare moment of joy and comfort. So I’m having a pretty bad time.
After 14 days, I regained my taste and smell (with joy!!!), and I’m starting to feel much better. Fatigue remains, but I am cured, I am back to my normal life.
For about 2 months, episodes of intense fatigue and headaches reappeared periodically. I could wake up feeling great one day, and the next day feel drained of all my energy. It was very disruptive and frustrating.
What about my Type 1 diabetes in all this?
My blood sugar levels were high for the first two weeks. I don’t know if it was due to insulin resistance, lack of activity or just the virus (probably a mix of all three), but it became very complicated to manage.
The difficulty in managing my blood glucose levels persisted for several weeks after the symptoms ended. I attribute this mainly to the decrease in physical activity: I was tired, so I didn’t exercise as much as usual, so my blood glucose tended to be high and my insulin needs increased. I increased my basal rate to accommodate these increased needs.
Eventually I got through it, and despite having Type 1 diabetes, I was cured of COVID.
To talk about it or not to talk about it?
When I tested positive, I hesitated to talk about it for several reasons. I was afraid of other people’s reactions, and it is medical and personal information. However, I realized that testimonials from people living with Type 1 diabetes who had had coronavirus were rare. I realized that my testimony could help other people and especially reassure them. I finally decided to talk about it.
People with T1D are not at greater risk than others, unless they have unbalanced diabetes. The major risks are mostly related to age (+ 65 years old) or associated pathologies. However, having coronavirus, like any other virus, makes managing diabetes more complicated. In my own experience, it has taken me longer than my friends to recover.
My conclusion: you can be cured of COVID-19 even with Type 1 diabetes. Don’t underestimate the virus, but you can be reassured: with rest, a health care team by your side and a supportive environment, including the T1D community, you can get through it.
They live with Type 1 diabetes and they have had coronavirus too
“I’m lucky because my symptoms are very mild: it all started with a slight sore throat that disappeared after 24 hours, and then I had the symptoms of a little cold: runny nose, sneezing, stinging eyes. Everything went away very quickly, I lost my sense of smell after 5 days. And that’s it!” – Laura, T1D for 27 years.
“Thanks to Leonor’s testimony, I was not afraid and I thank her. I owe it to myself to share this same experience to reassure all the people with diabetes in this very anxiety-provoking context.” – Coco & Podie