Are You Winter Ready? 7 Tips To Manage Your Type 1 Diabetes This Winter.
With the colder months come a lot of fun things – snowballs, holidays, food [lots!], and not to mention opening gifts. When living with type 1 diabetes, there may be a few extra things to keep in mind as the snowflakes start drifting earthward. Here are 7 tips to keep you cosy during the winter season.
1. Keep your diabetes devices and insulin out of the cold
Just like extreme heat, extreme cold can affect your insulin and it is recommended that you keep your insulin stored between 2 and 8°Celsius in the refrigerator.1 It’s also a good idea to keep your insulin pump [hyperlink] and continuous glucose monitor [CGM][hyperlink] at a temperature no lower than minus 20°C.2 If you’re outside in cold weather, wear your pump close to your body and cover it with an accessory or warm clothing. Just like in heat, freezing temperatures can break down insulin and cause it to lose its effectiveness.1 Make sure your blood glucose [BG] meter is protected in a case and bundled up too!
2. Protect your immune system
Winter is flu season, and when you’re sick, you’re probably stressed, both of which can raise BG levels.3 Talk to your diabetes healthcare team about whether or not you should be getting an annual flu vaccination to help protect yourself against the flu. Remember to wash your hands often with soap and water or keep hand sanitiser nearby to prevent the spreading of germs. If you do get sick, follow the advice provided by your diabetes healthcare team.
3. Test, don’t guess
Dramatic temperature changes may affect your BG levels.4 As the seasons change, pay close attention to your CGM [hyperlink] because you’ll likely be experiencing different activities or schedules than other times during the year. If you notice a change in your BG levels, talk with your diabetes healthcare team about adjusting your basal rate or using a basal pattern accordingly to help keep your numbers where you want them.
4. Keep your hands warm
Cold weather can leave you with cold hands, making testing your BG more difficult. When your hands are warmer, it brings more blood to your fingers. Wearing gloves outside is one of the easiest ways to keep your hands warm during the cold months. There are also special mittens available that allow you to take the finger portion off, so you won’t need to remove the full glove just to expose a finger. If your hands are cold before testing, warm them up on a warm mug or with warm soapy water.
5. Don’t stop moving
Cold weather can make us want to bundle up by the fire and skip our exercise routine, especially when the sun goes down earlier in the day. It’s important to continue moving during the winter season to help you manage your BG levels, keep you warm, and relax your mind. Look for ways to work in your daily exercise, such as walking around your local shopping centre, joining a gym, trying activities you can do at home, taking up a new winter sport, or bundling up with a friend and continuing your outdoor routine. It’s also a great idea to get your diabetes healthcare team involved as they may be able to suggest some good flexibility exercises. To get you started, you may want to check out our videos, Be Active. Stay Active and Exercising with Maria for some simple stretches.
6. Beat the winter blues
The holiday season can be stressful, and the shorter winter days can affect your mood and emotions. Getting exercise, eating well, and keeping busy with the things you enjoy can help keep your spirits up. If you’re having trouble with depression, talk to a friend who can empathise and contact your diabetes healthcare team for help.
7. Keep an eye on your feet
Winter air can dry out and crack your skin, especially on your feet, which can open doors to wounds and infections. Be sure to protect your feet with the necessary winter footwear, especially in the snow and below-freezing temperatures. Apply moisturiser to your feet to keep your skin healthy and inspect them daily. If you notice an injury that isn’t healing, be sure to contact your diabetes healthcare team immediately.
On top of sourcing a last-minute Christmas tree and turkey large enough to feed the extended family, there may be a little more to think about during the cold season if you’re living with type 1 diabetes. However, remembering to take care of yourself well during the hectic holiday season can help keep the festivities, well, festive.
*Editor’s note: This article has been adapted and reproduced from a post published on Medtronic Diabetes Australia.
- Heinemann L, Braune K, Carter A, Zayani A, Krämer LA. Insulin Storage: A Critical Reappraisal. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 2021;15(1):147-159.
- Medtronic. MiniMed 770G System. https://www.medtronicdiabetes.com/. 2021. Available at: https://www.medtronicdiabetes.com/products/minimed-770g-insulin-pump-system. [September Jun 2021].
- American Diabetes Association. Good to Know: Factors Affecting Blood Glucose. Clin Diabetes. 2018;36(2):202.
- Diabetes.co.uk. Diabetes and Cold Weather. https://www.diabetes.co.uk/. 2019. Available at: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-and-cold-weather.html. [Accessed September 2021].