Hot Tips for Managing Diabetes in the Deep Winter Cold

winter tips with diabetes The weather outside is frightful! The temperatures are dropping and we are in the midst of deep winter cold.  Managing to stay warm can be a challenge on days like these.  How do you manage your diabetes as well? Here are a few things to remember…

Insulin freezes.

Insulin is liquid. It can freeze. Make sure not to leave insulin in your car.  When you are outside, keep it close to your body. This also means that if you are pumping, make sure to tuck your pump close to your body to keep things running properly.

If you think your insulin has been froze, throw it out! Don’t take any chances.  It will not work as efficiently once the proteins have been frozen.

Keep warm!

That means keeping your diabetes devices warm as well! I just told you to keep the insulin in your pump warm, but did you also know that your pump (like your phone) also needs to stay warm? Keep your pump and CGM under your winter clothing and as close to your body as you can.

If you are using a tSlim pump, watch for the low temperature warning on the pump.  This will tell you that your pump is not functioning as it should because of the cold.

Check your blood glucose level.

I know, you normally check but when it is cold out make sure that you still check…a lot.  Some people see their bg levels rise in the cold weather while others see it go up.  Don’t guess or go by how you feel–check then adjust with food or insulin.

Before you check, make sure that your meter is warm as well.  Glucometers function poorly below 40F (4C).  If you feel that your glucometer could be too cold, warm it in your armpit for a few minutes. It will quickly return to a functioning state.

Keep your hands warm.

It can be hard to check your blood glucose levels when fingers are cold and blood isn’t circulating properly.  Keep your hands warm and toasty to help making finger sticks a bit easier.  Wear warm gloves. You may want to consider using  mitts that have removable fingers to make it easier to check .

removable finger gloves for checking blood glucose
We found these gloves online.

Carry glucose that won’t freeze.

Juice packs are a handy way to treat lows but when you are playing in the snow, glucose tablets and granola bars are probably a better choice.  Also make sure to keep your glucagon warm and safe.  Frozen glucagon will be as useful as frozen insulin.


Winter activities can be fun but make sure you are prepared.  Follow some of these few hot tips and  enjoy your time in Mother Nature’s deep freeze!


Angels and alarm clocks

“Mom, I am going out on bike for a bit!”

“Did you test?”

“Did I test? Mom, would I engage in strenuous physical activity without first testing my blood sugar levels? Of course I tested!”

Insert eye roll! “Yes you would!” I yelled to him as he headed out the door. I do have to admit however, that he is improving. He still forgets to test. He still is not keen on testing or showing his pump in public but he is getting better.

When he goes out, I still have moments of panic.  Will he deal with a low when he is with his friends or will he find himself in trouble? Did he remember all of his supplies? Are his pockets filled with glucose? Does he have his phone? The moments of panic are fading a little more quickly. I am starting to have a bit of confidence in his abilities but I am sure that I will never be 100% free of worry.

My son returned to the house after an hour, full of sweat and ready to jump in the shower. “Don’t forget to test!” I reminded him. It was his turn to give me the eye roll!

That night I went through his meter. I had been slack in checking but all had seemed good. I knew that with increased summer activity problems were soon going to arise but once again I debated…lower the night time basal and risk him going high or let it ride? He hadn’t been that active…or so I thought. Perhaps the day of studying and being a lump would offset the activity in the evening and he would be good to go. I left things alone reminding him to test before he went to bed.  His meter had shown that he was staying up a lot later than normal and was testing before he went to sleep so he should have had a good gauge of his night reading before he pulled up the sheets.

I went to bed, resetting my internal alarm clock to a little later than normal.  It didn’t work. I woke up at 1.  My son was still up. He had tested and was 6.8(120ish).  Why is it that you always assume that they will drop during the night? I liked 6.8. It was a nice reading but I didn’t trust it. He was going to drop. I reset my internal alarm until 3 or 4am and back to sleep I went. On cue, I was awake by 4.  On cue, he was 4.1(74). I gave him a large glass of apple juice and crawled back into my bed for 15 minutes.  A retest revealed….that his blood glucose level had not moved. CRAP and thank goodness I woke up! More juice, more waiting and finally, close to 6am, he was back in range. I drifted back to sleep with plans of changing his basal rates in the morning.

I hate diabetes but once again, I am so grateful that I have those guardian angels that wake me up before we reach extreme lows.