Diabetes and Cold Weather: Managing Blood Sugar During the Winter

Winter brings cold weather, and for many people with diabetes, that means it's time to start watching out for blood sugar fluctuations. When the temperature dips, our bodies have to work a little harder to keep warm, which can lead to changes in blood sugar levels. This blog post will discuss how cold weather affects diabetes and how you can manage your blood sugar during the winter months. Stay safe and stay healthy!

Diabetes and Cold Weather

For people with diabetes, cold weather can pose a number of challenges. The most important thing to remember is to dress warmly and to keep your diabetes supplies (insulin, blood glucose meters, and test strips) close at hand in case you need them.

It's important to keep your diabetes management under control and that you regularly do blood sugar control.

How does cold weather affect diabetes?

Cold weather can cause changes in blood sugar levels for people with diabetes. When it's cold outside, our bodies must work harder to maintain their core body temperature. This means that the body burns more calories, which can lead to a drop in blood sugar levels. In addition, when we are cold, our bodies release hormones like adrenaline which can also lead to a decline in blood sugar levels. So it's essential to be aware of how the cold weather might affect your diabetes and take steps to keep your blood sugar levels in a healthy range.

Related article: Diabetes and Heat: Can hot weather & humidity affect blood sugar?

What can you do to manage your diabetes during the winter?

Winter is a time when we have to take extra care of our diabetes. There are a few things you can do to help manage your diabetes during the winter months:

  • Wear layers of clothing to stay warm and prevent fluctuations in blood sugar levels.

  • Carry diabetes supplies with you in case you need them.

  • Check your blood glucose levels more frequently during the winter months to make sure you don't have a low blood sugar level.

  • Talk to your doctor about how cold weather might affect your diabetes.

Following these tips can help ensure that you stay healthy and safe all winter long!

What to watch out for in the winter

There are a few things that people with diabetes should be aware of during the winter months.

Related article: Traveling with diabetes: checklist and packing tips

Flu Season

Flu and pneumonia are more common in the winter and can lead to severe complications for people with diabetes. Make sure you get a flu shot and talk to your doctor about getting a pneumonia vaccine. A few tips on protecting yourself from the flu or Covid-19 are:

  • Wash your hands regularly and often.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

  • Stay home if you are sick.

  • Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough.

  • Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly to help boost your immune system.

Blood sugar fluctuations

Warm weather is known for blood sugar level changes and increased insulin sensitivity, but also cold weather can cause the same blood sugar fluctuations. Be sure to check your blood sugar more frequently during winter, and carry diabetes supplies with you if you need them.

Diabetic neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy is a condition that can be caused by diabetes. Symptoms include numbness, tingling, or pain in the hands or feet. To prevent further complications, people with diabetic neuropathy should take extra care to keep their feet warm and dry during the winter months.

If you have diabetes, winter doesn't have to be a time of worry. Protecting your feet with the proper footwear and warm non-binding socks can help you stay safe and warm all winter long.

Insulin freezing

When temperatures outside reach freezing, it's important to be aware that your insulin could freeze.

If you use insulin (or other liquid medications), be sure to keep it from freezing. Insulin should be stored at room temperature (between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit). If it freezes, it will not work correctly. So if you're using insulin, be sure to carry it with you in an insulated bag or container like the 4AllFamily insulin cooler. This insulin cooler doesn't only work during hot summer days, but it also keeps your insulin cool at a regulated temperature when it's cold outside.

Related article: Can You Freeze Insulin and What Really Happens if you Do?

If you think your insulin has frozen, don't use it. Discard the vial and get a new one from your pharmacy. Also, be aware that other supplies like diabetes test strips are not exposed to direct extreme temperatures. Especially cold and freezing temperatures might bring harm to your equipment.

Warm Your Hands Before Testing Blood Sugar

It can be hard to get a good blood sugar reading when you have cold hands. So if your hands are cold, warm them up before testing your blood sugar. You can do this by running them under warm water, putting them in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes, or rubbing your hands together to improve the blood flow.

Keep Your Feet Warm, Dry, and Safe

If you have diabetes, it's important to take extra care of your feet during the winter months. Keep your feet warm and dry by wearing socks and shoes that fit well and protect your feet from the cold. If you have neuropathy, be sure to wear shoes that are comfortable and provide good support. You should also avoid walking barefoot in case you step on something sharp or icy.

If you have any cuts or scrapes on your feet, clean them immediately and put a bandage on them to prevent infection. And if you notice any sores or wounds that are not healing, be sure to see your doctor right away.

Conclusion

With the above steps and tips, you can help manage your diabetes during the winter and stay healthy all season long! Just remember to dress warmly, carry your diabetes supplies with you, check your blood sugar more frequently, and talk to your doctor about how cold weather might affect your diabetes. Stay safe, and enjoy the winter months!

If you have diabetes, what do you do to manage your blood sugar during the winter? Please share your tips with us in the comments below! And don't forget to stay warm out there!

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