Winter presents a unique set of challenges to people living with diabetes—especially in cold climates. While you may not have considered it before, there are a variety of factors that can impact your diabetes care during the cold months. Here are some things to watch out for and ways to handle them:

Cold temperatures

  1. Freezing temperatures can have harmful effects on people with diabetes in a number of ways. The first is your testing equipment and insulin—extreme cold can make your glucose monitor stop working and may also affect your insulin. So if you're driving somewhere, keep your supplies in the vehicle with you so they don't become unusable.

  2. The cold can also do a number on your extremities. You need to get serious about diabetic foot care this winter, because diabetes can cause a loss of feeling there. Wear sturdy, comfortable winter shoes or boots and very warm socks, moisturize your feet regularly and inspect them while you do, and if you see any injuries that just won't heal, call your doctor immediately.

  3. Finally, the cold can make getting a blood sugar reading from your hands more difficult. You will want to warm them up before you test, and to keep your meter at room temperature.

Food and activity

  1. People tend to put on a little weight during the winter months. Our bodies want more calories to keep going despite the cold, and you may notice a tendency to want to hibernate a little bit too. It's okay to listen to your body and give yourself the right amount of fuel when you’re exposed to the cold during a harsh winter, but make sure you're loading up on healthy meals and snacks. You should also keep your activity levels up so those extra calories don't turn into extra pounds.

  2. If it's too miserable outside to continue your usual routine, consider what you can do indoors. Exercise DVDs, fitness games on a Wii or similar video-game platform and even impromptu dance parties in the kitchen can keep you active and help you maintain your weight. Bonus: physical activity can warm you up too.

For more on winter and diabetes

Winter Warning: Diabetics Should Get Their Flu Shots
Winter Blues: How Are You Coping?
Now is the Time to Spring Into Action