Better Balance Blog

5 tips for managing diabetes in cold weather

Over the winter, people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes tend to have higher HbA1c levels than during the warmer summer months, as blood glucose levels can creep up as the temperature drops.1

Help control your blood glucose levels during the cold months with these 5 tips:

1. Help your immune system

If people with diabetes (Type 1 or Type 2) get the flu, this can weaken the immune system even if your condition is well-managed.2 People with diabetes are more at risk of potentially serious complications of flu infections such as pneumonia. High blood glucose levels, caused by infection, can increase the risk of conditions such as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) or Hyperglycaemic Hyperosmolar State (HHS).3

The flu vaccination is offered free of charge on the NHS to people with diabetes, to help prevent contracting flu this winter. Contact your GP or healthcare team for further information.



2. Test, Test, Test

Cold hands can make blood testing more difficult, but don’t let the cold put you off testing your blood glucose as required!

3. Stay hydrated

Keep your fluid levels up during the winter months as being unwell and having diabetes can be made worse if you are not hydrated. Some medications mean you need to eat regularly, so try to eat a little and often. Remember, carbohydrate-based drinks, like milk or juices, may help you manage your blood sugars alongside any medication.4


4.Keep moving

Just a little physical activity each day to get you a little bit out of breath, can help your body better regulate blood glucose, keeping you warm and helping your mental health. 1

Don’t be scared by the cold weather, either move your workout indoors or dress properly for an outdoor workout!

Physical activity can affect your blood glucose level during and after exercise, so make sure you regularly check your blood glucose before and after any activity to help keep your blood sugar level in check.

Seek advice from your healthcare team regarding your exercise regime.

There are many ways which exercise can help diabetes:5

  • Help you to lose or maintain a healthy weight 5
  • Help the body use insulin more efficiently – regular activity can help reduce the amount of insulin you have to take (if you are taking this), as muscle movement leads to greater sugar uptake by muscle cells and lower blood glucose levels. 5
  • Help strengthen your bones 5


5. Keep an eye on your feet

Winter air can dry out and crack the skin, especially on your feet, potentially leading to wounds and infections. Help protect your feet with slippers, socks and appropriate footwear, especially in the snow and rain.6

Apply moisturiser on your feet to keep your skin healthy and check them daily for any little cuts. If you notice a cut that isn’t healing, contact your healthcare team immediately.



References

1. Diabetes.co.uk – Diabetes and Cold Weather. Available at: http://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-and-cold-weather.html [Accessed 31.10.17]

2. Cdc.gov. (2017). Flu and People with Diabetes | Seasonal Influenza (Flu) | CDC. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/diabetes/index.htm [Accessed 10 Oct. 2017].

3. Diabetes.co.uk – Flu and Diabetes. Available at: http://www.diabetes.co.uk/flu-and-diabetes.html [Accessed 31.10.17]

4. Diabetes UK – Stay well this winter guide 2017. Available at: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/resources-s3/2017-10/Stay_well_this_winter_guide_2017.pdf [Accessed 31.10.17]

5. Diabetes UK – Getting active and staying active. Available at: https://www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/managing-your-diabetes/exercise [Accessed 31.10.17]

6. Medtronic Diabetes – Diabetes Winter Hacks: 7 tips to staying on track during cold weather season. Available at: https://www.medtronicdiabetes.com/loop-blog/diabetes-winter-hacks-7-tips-staying-track-cold-weather-season/ [Accessed 31.10.17]