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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Hygiene Precautions in Diabetes

Everyone should take reasonable precautions against infections. People with diabetes have to especially careful because high blood glucose impairs natural immunity. The immune system does not develop fully before the age of about 10 years. Therefore, children with type 1 diabetes are easy prey for all kinds of microbial infections. Similarly, immunity declines in old age. Therefore, senior citizens tend to catch coughs and colds quicker than healthy young adults. The elderly with type II diabetes are even more vulnerable than their peers who enjoy normal blood glucose metabolism.

Why should diabetes make people vulnerable to infections if they follow their prescriptions and keep blood glucose within normal limits?

The answer lies in the fact that blood glucose tends to rise when our bodies are stressed by infection. This implies that a person with pre-diabetes may cross the upper limit for blood glucose when he or she comes down with an infection. It follows that everyone with impaired glucose metabolism needs to be extra careful about preventing infections.

Here are the most common ways in which viruses, bacteria, fungi, and protozoan parasites make their ways in to our bodies:

1. Coughing, sneezing, spitting, and discharging any body fluids within close proximity to another is always bad manners, but not everyone shows due awareness and courtesy! Crowded places, and indoor areas with heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning that we have to share with many unknown people, are especially dangerous from this point of view. People with diabetes should others with obvious signs of any kind of influenza or tuberculosis, in offices, aircraft and trains, malls, and the like.

2. Food and beverages may harbor microbes. Salads, cold cuts, cut fruit, and any beverage left in the open are always suspect. People with diabetes should opt for thoroughly cooked food, bottled water or sugar-free sodas in sealed cans which have not bloated, and stay away from food which is raw, or which has become cold after preparation.

3. Cuts, burns and other wounds invite the entire microbe world to enter a human blood stream. A major injury will call for professional medical attention (the care giver should know that you are diabetic right away). However, small nicks while shaving or when outdoors are the ones we tend to ignore, thus inviting trouble. A person with diabetes has to be fastidious about immediate disinfection of even the slightest break in skin.

4. Most of us know about the dangers of HIV-AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases. What is less widely known is that kissing in the mouth exchanges saliva, and is a route of infection. Intercourse with a condom, or even manual stimulation of the genitalia of another person, brings infected skin around the groin of a partner in to contact, and many infections are able to use this route. Every adult with diabetes has medical reasons to avoid sexual promiscuity.

5. Manually washed linen and towels may harbor fungi. It is best to carry your own or to use paper towels when staying at a place without a mechanized laundry. Toilet seats and taps are safe as long as you wipe them dry before use. Many bacteria are able to survive for long periods on our hands, but cause no harm as long as they do not enter our mouths. Washing hands thoroughly before eating, after petting animals, and keeping children with diabetes away from skin contact with strangers, all help to prevent diabetes from inviting infections.


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