Diabetes Blogs

Cold Weather and Type 1 Diabetes: Tips to Get You to Spring

I pride myself on being a resident expert on cold weather and snow. Afterall, I was born and raised in northern Minnesota where just this last week temperatures dropped to -60!  I have 33 years of experience living in cold weather, and 20 years managing type 1 diabetes in this climate. 

Here are my top 5 blood sugar management tips to help you get through these tough months:

Quinn Nystrom with her fishDon't let living with a broken-down pancreas keep you indoors! One of my favorite winter activities is ice fishing. I recently caught this black crappie in 23 feet of water using a minnow and bobber. The temperature that day in northern Minnesota was -30 below! My fish was a delicious, blood-sugar friendly meal, too!

#1. Always know where your insulin vial is!

I consider my insulin to be liquid gold, and I certainly treat it like that, especially in the cold winter months. If I leave it in my car—even for a little while—I take precautions. In temperatures less than 32 degrees (Fahrenheit), insulin can lose its potency and could freeze. Make sure to carry it with you when you’re out and about. For maximum efficiency, insulin should always be at room temperature.

#2. Protect your blood glucose monitor

Have you ever innocently left your blood glucose kit in your car during the winter accidentally while you’re running errands only to return to find a broken meter? I have! And I’ve learned this the hard way several times. It takes a considerable amount of time to warm it back up so it works again. Keep it stashed in your coat pocket, purse or backpack.  

#3. Store Transcend Gel Packs in your car

A type 1 created these great 15-gram gel packs for low blood sugars—and I am in no way sponsored by the company that makes them! What I love about them is that they don’t freeze! I keep a couple in my car at all times and when I’m out in the cold weather I put two in my coat pocket in case I have a low blood sugar. 

#4. Don't guess your blood sugar!

When the weather is really cold (or hot), it’s harder for me to sense what my blood sugars are. I have been off many, many times. Rely on your continuous glucose monitor (CGM) or plan to test a couple extra times. It’s not worth it to have a low blood sugar because you guessed your number and were wrong!

# 5.Wear gloves

When our hands get cold, less blood supply gets to our fingers, making it extra hard for us to prick our fingers and have blood surface. Whenever I’m going outside this winter, I make sure to put on a pair of gloves. I also leave an extra pair in my car if I forget. Oh, and stock up on handwarmers, too. On those really bitter cold days, they can actually prevent frost bite!

It might surprise you to learn that I love being outside during the Winter, in spite of the sub-zero temps! I find few things more invigorating than outdoor exercise in January, February and March and, as we all know, regular exercise can help keep your weight steady and protect you from developing diabetes-related conditions like heart disease and diabetic neuropathy.

Don’t let living with a broken-down pancreas exclude you from snow golf, ice fishing, sledding, skiing, and snowshoeing! 


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