Currently, Storm Emma is causing havoc in Ireland, so there’s not going to be a better time to talk about how cold weather affects diabetes management.
The reaction to cold weather will vary for everyone, and can cause both hypos and hypers in people. Generally if people go low, it is due to the fact that our body has to work harder to keep us warm and therefore we burn more glucose. Hypos typically occur if the cold weather persists over a prolonged period. However, cold weather can also be considered a stress on the body, and the natural response to stress is an increase in BG levels, so hypers can also occur. Cold temperatures will effect circulation, therefore the blood carrying insulin to muscles will be limited, causing levels to rise.
The simplest thing to remember is to keep warm, and check your levels more regularly than normal. I’m a terror for relying on the ‘off’ feeling I get when my levels are low or high, and sometimes I just run with this feeing and don’t check my levels. But cold weather can give false hypo and hyper feelings so it’s important to monitor them.
It’s also really important to keep hydrated in cold weather. While you may not be as thirsty, water helps flush out sugars in the system and will help normalise BG levels.
Not only does the low temperatures effect BG levels, diabetic equipment in also effected. I’ve noticed that my BG monitor doesn’t work at temps below 8ºC. Also, insulin begins to freeze at -3ºC, and it’s affect will be nullified if kept at this low temperature. So it’s very important to keep your equipment warm.
Fortunately I don’t suffer from neuropathy (nerve damage in feet which diabetics are susceptible to). However if you do, it’s important to keep your feet well wrapped up and warm and avoid staying in the cold for too long.
While Storm Emma will pass, cold weather is inevitable so it’s important to have an idea as to what to expect.