How Winter Affects Your Diabetes

Winter is here and at this point in the calendar, it feels like it may never leave. Short, dark days, cool temperatures, layers of clothing and winter produce leave us all looking forward to the hot sunny days of summer. While the winter seasons has its upsides, this season presents unique challenges for people living with diabetes. Cold weather can affect your medications, diabetes supplies, and how you manage your diabetes.

Winter changes the way we eat. During the winter, there are less fruits and vegetables in market. There is good news, citrus like oranges, grapefruits (if you are not on statins), tangelos, mandarins, lemons and limes (to flavor your water and food) are in season as is winter squash – a great source of carbohydrates – root vegetables like carrots, turnips, rutabagas and parsnips are also in season this time of year.

People tend to eat more “comfort foods” during the winter season. This time of year is known for more food based holiday eating. Holiday eating can provide additional challenges for people living with diabetes that are trying to manage their blood sugar.

The cold weather can affect people living with diabetes as well. Avoid leaving your medications in the car because the cold weather and freezing temperatures can damage them (as can the heat). Winterize your diabetes emergency kit, use the change of season to check the expiration dates on all your supplies – glucose tabs, juice, medications, insulin, glucagon, testing supplies, etc. In case you lose your electricity, include a fully charged external power bank or extra batteries, blankets, gloves, hats, scarves, hand warmers, and healthy snacks like peanut butter, nuts, or pull top cans of tuna.

Finger stick blood sugar checking may be more difficult in the cold weather if your hands are cold and your blood flow is decreased.  Run some warm (not hot) water over your hands to increase blood flow before you check.

It is important to take care of yourself during the cold winter. Be sure that you wear warm shoes and socks that keep your feet dry. If you have neuropathy of your feet and get frostbite, there is a possibility won’t feel it. Make sure to check feet daily for sores, cracks, skin abrasions. In the summer when you wear sandals or sit without socks, you are more inclined to see your bare feet. During the winter, you need to make the extra effort. ALWAYS wear gloves when you go outside in the cold or carry hand warmers if you just can’t get your hands warm when you are outside.

Keep hands and feet well moisturized in the cold weather to avoid cracking of skin – make it a habit to moisture before you go to bed and after a warm (not hot) shower or bath. Run a humidifier in your house to keep the air moist.

Shorter days means that you are less physically active. Find some cold weather activities like hiking, skating, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, snow tubing, or downhill skiing to take advantage of the winter season! Recognize that snow shoveling IS physical activity, so be sure to test your blood sugar before, during and after.

More time spent indoors usually means less physical activity – So join us in the GlucoseZone app to make sure that you get the exercise that you need!

About the Author:

LaurieAnn Scher  MS, RD, CDE is the diabetes educator for GlucoseZone.  With over 30 years in practice, she embraces new technologies and ideas that are grounded in human physiology to help people with diabetes achieve the best outcome.  With an undergraduate degree in Clinical Nutrition from Cornell University and a Masters in Applied Physiology and Nutrition from Columbia University, Teachers College, she is comfortable applying innovations in nutrition, exercise and diabetes to the current practice of diabetes management.  LaurieAnn is comfortable with challenging the status quo to personalize diabetes care recognizing that while diabetes may be similar as a disease state, not everything works for all people all of the time.  Join LaurieAnn to help discover how to manage your diabetes in the GlucoseZone