5 Winter Care Measures for Managing Diabetes
Does the frigid cold and blustering winds of winter leave you with dry skin, cold toes, and even illness? That’s just the tip of the iceberg for those living with diabetes. Winter months introduce a new set of challenges for testing, controlling blood sugar levels, and staying healthy. Here are a few precautions you can take to get you through the season with fewer worries.
Winter brings dry air, making it a constant battle to keep your skin from cracking. Furthermore, cracks and blisters in your skin may put you at risk for a bacterial or fungal infection. People with diabetes can have poor circulation, which can cause their skin to dry out even faster. Hence, moisturizing during your morning and bedtime routines is a helpful habit to prevent dry skin. When moisturizing your feet, avoid the skin between your toes, as these areas may not dry as quickly and potentially breed a fungal infection.
Moisturizing may also help your finger prick wounds heal a little faster. Be sure to wash and dry your hands thoroughly before testing your blood sugar. Apply moisturizer only after your test is done, because it can affect the accuracy of your test results.
Keep your lips protected too! Don’t wait until they are chapped to run out and buy lip ointment. Keep a tube in your pocket or bag and apply a layer of protection anytime you head out into the cold.
Choosing a moisturizer or lip ointment
- Look for mineral oil, shea butter or petroleum jelly in the list of ingredients
- Avoid herbal ingredients or added chemicals, as these may cause irritation
- Olive oil or coconut oil can provide protection if a moisturizer is not accessible
2. Bundle up
Before you head out into the cold, take a moment to make sure your ears, neck, fingers, and toes have properly-fitting protective layers. If your fingers get too cold, it may be difficult to obtain a blood drop for testing. Running your hands under warm water can help get the blood flowing.
Store extra hats, gloves, scarves, and blankets in your car during the winter months. If your plans change last-minute to an outside activity or you have trouble getting your car started, you will be prepared.
3. Have footwear and foot care awareness
Wearing well-fitting shoes and socks and checking your feet daily are essential for people with diabetes. Blisters and sores are an invitation for bacterial or fungal infections, therefore it is important they are treated right away. Since diabetes can cause nerve damage in some people over time—resulting in loss of feeling or a numbing effect—an oncoming blister can easily go undetected. A daily visual check is best for preventing infections on your feet.
4. Prevent your supplies from freezing
Your testing supplies and insulin has a temperature limit for use and storage. In very cold environments, it is possible to expose your meter, continuous glucose monitor, test strips, or insulin to harsh conditions that compromise their performance or make them unusable.
Check the instructions for use that comes with your testing supplies and insulin to best determine their tolerance to the cold weather.
5. Consider a flu shot
People with diabetes can suffer severe complications from the flu, including pneumonia, sinus infections, and bronchitis. The CDC recommends getting a flu shot annually, as the best way to reduce your chances of getting sick.
If you do get sick, blood sugar control can be a rollercoaster due to stress, medicines, and differences in diet. Stress may cause your blood sugar levels to rise into an unsafe zone, while medicines can sometimes raise or lower your levels. Work with your doctor to make a sick day plan. Include how frequently to test and which medications to avoid and which ones are safe.
With these preventative actions, you will be on your way to a healthier winter!