The winter is here and cold days came to stay! So, there is any relationship to take into account between diabetes and cold weather? The answer is: yes!

Everyone is getting ready: warm clothes out of the closet, heating on and having more of hot drinks. But  what about diabetes and cold weather? Why is this an issue to be discussed?

My experience says that most of the people with diabetes notice that their blood glucose control is worse during the winter. With no apparent reason, blood sugars are high even if you do the same things as before. Suddenly, what was under control is now getting out of hand.

There are different theories about this but it is known that more individuals are diagnosed with diabetes on Winter months than other months. Also, winter time brings more people with diabetes to the hospitals. Both causes suggest that low temperatures induce blood sugars rise.

Diabetes and cold weather: what to do about it

All that said, it is very important you keep diabetes management as controlled as possible in order to prevent high blood sugars when worsening of your control.

Here are the ultimate tips to survive this winter.

Test your blood sugars more frequently

If you know that the blood sugars are at risk to increase you must be on top of your blood sugars variabilities.

Monitor the glucose levels more often to understand if the blood sugars are not in control. This allows you to make earlier decisions on what to do to prevent any drastic rise of blood sugars.

Keep your testing strips, medication and meter on a dry, cool place

Medications, such as insulin, can vary its characteristics if kept in higher or lower temperatures.  Keep the insulin pen you are using away from a radiator or heat source.

In other hand, the meters and strips can become faulty and shouldn’t be left in the car at night on in any other place with extreme temperatures.

Keep exercising

Cold time and winter hours can make you skip your exercise routine but you must keep your motivation high and exercise as usual.

Exercising has very positive impact on blood sugars and it is an important key for a best blood sugars control.

If you stop exercising your insulin resistance may rise due to possible weight gain, and consequently your body will struggle to balance your blood sugars.

Exercise keeps you warm, is good for the mind, wellbeing and help your body to better regulate the blood glucose levels.

Look at your feet

Cold weather makes everyone’s feet cold. This matters for people with diabetes, due the high risk of nerve damage and diminished limbs circulation.

In this case it is advisable to check your feet more frequently to make sure that there is no pressure area, open wound or something stuck on the sole of your feet.

Keep your feet moisturised and the inner finger always clean and dry!

Warm your hands…

…before you check your blood sugars.

Cold hands always make it difficult to check the blood sugars.

Wash your hands with warm water to increase circulation in your hands and make it easier to get a drop of blood.

Get a flu jab

Highly recommended.

People with diabetes, are more likely to get sick than people without diabetes.

In an easy way to explain, due to the “sugary” blood that supplies the whole body, the virus and bacteria tend to be more friendly with sugary environments because they found it easier to penetrate and develop.

When people with diabetes get ill, the body gets stressed. As a consequence, the blood sugar levels rise making the diabetes management harder.

The risk of developing other serious conditions such as diabetic ketoacidosis or hyperglycaemic hyperosmolar state increases a lot.

The flu jab protects you from the strains of flu viruses likely to cause epidemic over the coming months.

Choose your cold medications wisely

Be aware that cough syrups, teas and lozenges are rich in sugars. Always ask your chemist or pharmacist for sugar free forms of this type of medications.

Keep hydrated

Cold weather doesn’t give too much need to drink. Keep yourself hydrated with free sugar hot drinks and water.

Be aware of sick day rules

Discuss with your diabetes team the sick day rules for this winter.

Usually you should contact your health centre or hospital if you have diarrhoea or vomiting for more than 2-3 days, when blood sugars are very high or in the presence of ketones in the blood.

When sick, it is important to:

  • Keep hydrated
  • Maintain your insulin regimen
  • Check the blood glucose more often
  • Stop tablets such as SGLT-2 inhibitors (Dapagliflozin, Canagliflozin, Empagliflozin, etc) and Metformin to avoid dehydration and risk of lactic acidosis (basically a very serious condition when the body’s normal acidity changes)
  • Try to eat small amount of food but more frequently

Now you have all the tools you need to win this Winter and keep your diabetes in control. No excuse!

Let’s go! Challenge accepted.