Tips for Managing Cold Weather and Diabetes

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By : Suvarna Sheth

With cold weather on the horizon, people of all ages are urged to take precautions to protect their hands and feet from cold-related injuries like frostbite, ankle sprains, and fractures.

Prolonged exposure to harsh winter conditions can cause damage to the skin and underlying tissues, or frostbite.

Over the winter, people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes tend to have higher HbA1c levels than during the warmer months. With this in mind, we compile a list of tips to best protect you.

Cold Weather Tips for you:

Dress properly and remember proper foot gear is just as important as a warm coat, hat, and gloves

Well-insulated shoes and boots are a must as well as a good pair of socks

Make sure your footwear is not-too-tight or lose to prevent blisters and abrasions, impair control, and lead to accidents

Winter can dry out and crack the skin, especially hands and feet. Try a diabetic dry skin moisturizing lotion

Keep an eye on your blood sugar levels

Consider a CGM in order to monitor your sugar levels instead of doing routine finger pricks which are hard to do in cold weather

Keep up your physical activity to help regulate blood glucose

Boost your immune system by taking your vitamins

Stay well-hydrated

During cold and dry months, keep your home more humid

Avoid hot showers and baths

Use mild soaps and shampoos that don’t dry out your skin

See a dermatologist about skin problems you can’t solve yourself

Cold Weather Tips for your medication:

Insulin freezes at 32 degrees (F) so remember to protect it from the cold and keep it above 40 degrees if possible

Make sure your glucagon emergency kit does not freeze

Cold Weather Tips for your devices:

Understand safetly and cold weather tips for your insulin pumps and electronic devices

Try to keep your pump or CGM receiver above 40 degrees (F)

Keep your inuslin pump or CGM inside your pocket or close to your body to keep it warm

If your CGM has a receiver, make sure it stays warm by keeping it close to your body

Most pumps have an alert if it is too cold

Make sure your CGM sensor does not freeze while storing it

Foot Care Tips

Ankle sprains and ankle fractures are much more prevalent this time of year for everyone. Ice and snow create the impetus for injury by allowing the foot to twist on the leg in such a way that ligaments and bone are damaged.

The initial treatment for these injuries should include rest, ice, immobilization, compressive wraps and elevation (commonly known as RIICE).

Any ankle or foot injury with pain and swelling beyond 48 hours be checked out by a podiatrist or physician.

  • Do not ignore ankle or foot injuries
  • After the injury is treated by a physician, engage in a home exercise program
  • Makes sure your program is approved by your physician to ensure it does not impair the healing process

Reviewed by Francine Kaufman, MD.

Updated 10/18.