Living with diabetes blog

Managing diabetes in the winter: Safety tips

By Nancy Klobassa Davidson, R. N. and Peggy Moreland, R. N., C. D. E. March 20, 2014

In Minnesota, winter often arrives well before December 21, the official first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. If you live in a colder climate, managing diabetes can be an added challenge. Colds and flu, changes in diet and exercise and the stress of the holidays can make managing your blood sugar even more challenging. But you can take certain precautions to stay healthy and safe during the holidays and winter season.

Cold and flu

To help avoid getting a cold or the flu:

  • Make sure you get plenty of rest.
  • Wash your hands more often — I've also noticed that more department stores offer hand sanitizers at the entrances and exits.
  • Get the flu vaccine.

When ill, drink plenty of fluids, and test your blood sugar more frequently.

Stay warm

  • Wear layers. Also, cover your head, and wear mittens or gloves.
  • Keep your feet warm and protected. Wear comfortable shoes and socks, which is especially important if you have circulation problems.
  • Protect devices. Keep your blood glucose monitor — and insulin pump if you wear one — close to your body to keep them warm.

Eat well

The holiday season makes it more tempting to stray from your diet plan. A healthy diet is important for everyone, not just those with diabetes. So, in general, be mindful of how much candy and fatty food you eat. Eat more of the grains, fruits and vegetables that are in season. Drink alcohol in moderation. And if you take insulin, it's best to have an alcoholic drink with food.


The days are short and the nights are long in northern climates, making it difficult to go for a walk when you get home from work. To stay on track:

  • Look for ways to work in your daily exercise, such as by walking at your local mall or shopping center.
  • Join an exercise gym.
  • Explore community fitness classes, such as swimming classes, that may be offered for a small fee.
  • Try activities that you can do at home, such as stretching or doing leg or arm lifts while watching TV or listening to music. If you're able to, you could also walk up and down the stairs in your home.


Winter weather can disrupt your travel plans and potentially affect your diabetes management. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend keeping the following in a winter travel emergency kit:

  • Cell phone and charger
  • Shovel
  • Windshield scraper
  • Battery powered radio and extra batteries
  • Flashlight
  • Water and snack food
  • Extra hats, clothes and mittens
  • Blankets
  • Chains or rope and tire chains

Also recommended are:

  • Road salt and sand
  • Jumper cables
  • Emergency flares, a bright colored flag and help signs
  • First aid kit
  • Road map and compass
  • Waterproof matches (to melt snow for water)

And, no matter what time of year, if you have diabetes, it's always good to have glucose tablets or other hypoglycemia treatment readily available in the car.

Winter blues

The holiday season is stressful, and the shorter days and winter weather can affect your mood and emotions. Getting exercise, eating healthy and doing things with others can help keep your spirits up. If you're having trouble with depression, seek help. Talk to someone such as a close friend or your health care provider.

Check your blood sugar regularly. If you're having trouble managing your blood sugar this winter, or at any time, talk with your diabetes team.

Happy Holidays. Stay safe.


March 20, 2014