When cold weather hits, it has an effect on diabetes and on diabetic medications and equipment. Some of these complications are due to changes in human behavior and some are due to the cold itself.
- When the weather is cold, people tend to stay indoors more and exercise less, which can cause blood sugars to rise. Exercise helps the body regulate blood sugar, so it’s important to find ways to stay active indoors when the weather outdoors is cold and damp.
- Cold weather also tends to keep people from venturing out to go to the grocery store to get the ingredients for home cooking. This can lead to more eating out, or ordering in, which in turn leads to overeating foods that can increase blood sugar.
- When it’s cold outside, the skin on our feet can dry out and become cracked, leading to foot infections that may not heal. It’s important that diabetics check their feet daily during the winter, use plenty of lotion and dress in warm socks and sturdy, waterproof shoes.
- Diabetic neuropathy can prevent people from realizing that frostbite is occurring. See above.
- Insulin is not stable at extreme temperatures and, unfortunately, it won’t change color or smell funny to show it’s been damaged by heat or cold. If it is damaged, it won’t control your blood sugar in a predictable way. In cold weather, keep your insulin at or above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t leave it in a cold car. If it freezes, you will need to replace it.
- Like many other electronic devices, insulin pumps and monitors can be damaged by cold weather. Keep them at or above 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cold weather brings the flu season, which can be much riskier for those with diabetes. It’s important to get your flu vaccine, stay hydrated, get plenty of sleep and eat a healthy diet in order to avoid illness during the winter.
- The risk of depression goes up during the winter months, and, unfortunately, people with diabetes are already at an increased risk of experiencing depression. Depression also makes diabetes harder to manage and increases the risk of poor blood sugar control. It’s important to watch out for depression and to seek help if needed.