While the winter season can be a fun time filled with skiing, sledding and mugs of steaming cocoa, it can also be marked by not-so-fun events like the flu, sick days and visits to the clinic.
Although many Canadians embrace the cold weather like experienced pros, people living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) tend to have more difficulty managing their condition when the temperature drops. This is due to fluctuating sugar levels often stemming from a weaker immune system and slower circulation during the winter months that reduce the effectiveness of insulin. As a result, these individuals are more susceptible to a common cold, which can pose additional problems since their bodies rely on hormones to combat the stress associated with being ill.
However, T1D should not keep anyone from getting outside and enjoying the pleasures of the season. With a little foresight and a plan of action in the case of extreme weather conditions, your blood sugars can be managed without worry!
Below are a few tips for surviving winter with T1D:
Boost your immune system
Stay healthy by eating well, drinking lots of water and sleeping 7 to 8 hours each night. Consider taking vitamin supplements and getting the flu shot as per your doctor’s recommendations.
Monitor your sugar levels
Monitor your blood sugar often and carefully because you can get false hypoglycemia (low sugar) and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) readings in extreme temperatures. Elevated ketone levels may also occur when blood sugar readings are above normal. This can be a sign that the body is using fat and muscle for energy and could lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, a dangerous medical condition that can be fatal.
A little activity each day will improve insulin sensitivity by allowing the body to better regulate blood sugar levels. Exercise also lets you stay warm and helps your mind to better cope with the challenges of your self-management. Just keep in mind that activity can affect blood glucose for up to 48 hours.
Take care of your feet
People who suffer from neuropathy may not realize just how chilly their feet are, which can pose a risk for frostbite. Warm socks that keep feet dry are especially important this time of year. Winter can also make skin more susceptible to drying and cracking, leading to infections. Moisturize your feet daily and limit their exposure to the cold.
Protect your insulin and medical supplies
Fluctuations in temperatures and power outages can put injectable insulin at risk since it must be refrigerated and is only be safe for use between 0°C and 30°C. Diabetes equipment like blood sugar monitors can also stop working in cold weather conditions, so be sure to plan ahead when traveling and/or participating in any outdoor activities.
We hope these tips help you enjoy good times with your family and friends during this season while keeping your blood sugar levels in check. Wishing you a safe and happy winter!
For more informative articles on health and type 1 diabetes, visit our JDRF Blog.