{Diabetes Management} Getting the Flu Vaccine (?)

by Leighann on October 11, 2012

The topic of vaccinating is a touchy one and most parents are strongly on one side of the debate or the other. Since it’s that time of year to get a flu shot, I am beginning to see lots of questions about whether parents should vaccinate their children with type 1 diabetes.

Illnesses that mildly affect other children can dramatically affect our children with diabetes because they can raise blood sugars and cause a build up of ketones, potentially leading to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) which is an emergency situation.

I wanted to share a post I wrote a few years ago: Diabetes and Vaccinating Against H1N1. They no longer separately vaccinate for H1N1, but the information provided there is still relevant. Also note that when I talk about our first sick day, it was the stomach flu which is different than the respiratory flu. I use the story to illustrate that any illness can affect blood sugars. Then when I talk about the flu in kindergarten, it was the respiratory flu and H1N1.

You can also read the post My H1N1 Vaccine Questions Answered, which is a follow up to that first one.

There is a great sidebar in Kids First, Diabetes Second researched and written by Wil Dubois, published author and contributor to Diabetes Mine, that explains how the flu vaccine works and why it is beneficial to those with diabetes. Wil uses a pirate analogy to illustrate how the flu operates and how the vaccine works. (It totally makes sense if you read the entire sidebar.)

Wil says in Understanding Flu, the Flu Shot, and the Pirates of the Caribbean, “A traditional syringe and needle flu shot is just a bunch of dead pirates floating in sea water. It’s an inactivated vaccine, a killed sample of the very real pirates that are out there planning winter mischief. It’s a safe way to introduce your body to a new threat; your immune system can study the enemy and learn how to defeat it with no risk of getting sick. It’s like taking the Royal Navy Marines down to the dock-side morgue to see some real pirate bodies to help them recognize live ones out on the open sea.”

You can find lots of great information on the CDC’s website about the flu. They even have information specifically for us: Flu and People with Diabetes.

Remember that I never give medical advice. Ask your endocrinologist or pediatrician for advice about your own child. Make your own informed decision.

Further Reading

Sick Day Management

Diabetes Management


Kids First, Diabetes Second Book

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 katy October 11, 2012 at 8:38 am

Last year our endo said OF COURSE HE SHOULD GET THE VACCINE, ARE YOU SERIOUS?! I want to hear about endos who advise against it, or parents who decide not to get it.


2 Amy Scheer October 11, 2012 at 9:13 am

It’s important. But here’s a funny thing: my son is afraid of the flu shot! I figure he deals with enough shots in his life, so if he sees this as a problem, we’re doing the mist. Our endo would rather we get the shot, but the mist will have to do–and we’ve been fine for 2 years on it.


3 Krissy McMomma October 11, 2012 at 2:29 pm

My daughter was diagnosed in January. This was the FIRST YEAR my girls got the flu shot because of her diagnosis. My non T1D (and youngest) took the flu shot like a champ. My daughter who gets poked multiple times a day screamed &cried and had to be held down. Go figure.

I still don’t know the right answer as far all the vaccines we’re giving our kids. But I figure to flu one is pretty harmless compared to the others and I am so not looking forward to my first experience with the flu + the Big T1D !!!


4 K October 11, 2012 at 6:18 pm

This is also our first year with T1d. Our endocrinologist said the shot or the mist is fine. We’ve never done the mist…may just stick with the shot since that’s what my children are expecting anyway:)


5 Sysy October 11, 2012 at 6:33 pm

I think some people worry about studies that share some info on risks, especially for high risk populations like children:




Those are just a few sources that, when read by people that can understand the language and have the patience to read it, can cause genuine worry and possibly a decision not to vaccinate-in any capacity.

No one in my family gets the flu shot and even though I respect those who do and can understand it’s the right choice for SOME, I wish more people would read into it more in order to understand why many feel it’s not the right choice for them or their children.


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