Diabetes winter hacks: 7 tips to staying on track cold weather season

mitten hands holding mug in winter

Miranda Lowery | The LOOP Blog


A big thanks to Miranda Lowery, CDE, RD, for stopping by today with 7 tips for managing your diabetes even when the temperature drops.


1. Keep your diabetes devices and insulin out of the cold

Just like extreme heat, extreme cold can affect your insulin (insulin solutions freeze near 32 degrees Fahrenheit), and we recommend that you avoid exposing your insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor to weather below 34 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re outside in cold weather, wear your pump close to your body and cover it with an accessory or warm clothing. Just like in heat, freezing temperatures can break down insulin and cause it lose its effectiveness. Make sure your blood glucose (BG) meter is protected in a case, and bundled up too!


2. Protect your immune system

Winter is flu season, and when you’re sick, you’re probably stressed, both of which can raise BG levels. Talk to your doctor about whether or not you should be getting an annual flu shot to help protect yourself against the flu. And wash your hands often with soap and water, or keep hand sanitizer nearby, so you don’t spread germs. Just remember, hand sanitizer may have sugar alcohols so could affect your BG readings and dry out your hands, so make sure you wash them before you pull out your meter. If you do get sick, follow sick day rules provided by your healthcare team.


3. Test, don't guess

Dramatic temperature changes may affect your BG levels. As the seasons change, pay close attention to your CGM trend, because you’ll likely be experiencing different activities or schedules than other times during the year. If you notice a change in your BG levels, talk with your healthcare team about adjusting your basal rate or turning on a basal pattern accordingly to help keep your numbers where you want them.


4. Keep your hands warm

Cold weather can leave you with cold hands, making testing your BG more difficult. When your hands are warmer, it brings more blood to your fingers. Wearing gloves outside is one of the easiest ways to keep your hands warm during the cold months. There are also special mittens available that allow you to take the finger portion off, so you won’t need to remove the full glove just to expose a finger. If your hands are cold before testing, warm them up on a warm mug or with warm soapy water.


5. Don't stop moving

Cold weather can make us want to bundle up by the fire and skip our exercise routine, especially when the sun goes down earlier in the day. It’s important to continue moving during the winter season to help keep your BG levels under control, keep you warm, and relax your mind. Look for ways to work in your daily exercise, such as walking at your local mall, joining a gym, trying activities you can do at home, taking up a new winter sport, or bundling up with a buddy and continuing your outdoor routine.


6. Beat the winter blues

The holiday season can be stressful, and the shorter winter days can affect your mood and emotions. Getting exercise, eating well, and keeping busy with the things you enjoy can help keep your spirits up. If you’re having trouble with depression, talk to a peer and contact your healthcare team for help.


7. Keep and eye on your feet

Winter air can dry out and crack your skin, especially on your feet, which can open doors to wounds and infections. Be sure to protect your feet with the necessary winter footwear, especially in the snow and below freezing temperatures. Apply moisturizer to your feet to keep your skin healthy, and inspect them daily. If you notice an injury that isn’t healing, be sure to contact your healthcare team immediately. What are your tips for managing your diabetes during the cold season?


Guest Blogger – Miranda Lowery, CDE, RD
Miranda Lowery is a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), Registered Dietitian (RD), and Medtronic Diabetes Clinical Manager in Savannah, Georgia. Living with type 1 diabetes since the age of 2, she has dedicated her career to helping those living with diabetes learn to live a healthier, rewarding life with diabetes - “control diabetes instead of letting diabetes control you.” Prior to joining Medtronic, Miranda worked as a Clinical Nutrition Manager and Outpatient Dietitian.

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Submitted by Ben (not verified) on

In reply to by Commenter (not verified)

This is such a useful article about things that can easily get so forgotten about in the winter season! I especially love the last one because as someone with T2D I need to keep an eye out for stuff like that.

Submitted by LOOP Blog Editorial on

In reply to by Ben (not verified)

Ben, it makes me happy to hear you found this article helpful!

Submitted by Margaret tolson (not verified) on

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I am diabetes number 2

Submitted by Shweta Sharma (not verified) on

In reply to by Commenter (not verified)

A very helpful article.I am 28 and its been 10 yrs that I am suffering from diabetes.I was luking for help to manage my BG in freezing weather.As my BG keeps fluctuating and my hba1c is near 8,I would like to know more about diabetes care and tips to bring down my insulin dose.

Submitted by LOOP Blog Editorial on

In reply to by Shweta Sharma (not verified)

Shweta, I’m happy to hear you found these tips helpful. If you’re interested in learning more about insulin pump therapy and CGM, please let me know and I’ll have a member of my team connect with you.

Submitted by Mary Poncy (not verified) on

In reply to by Commenter (not verified)

Thank you for the tips.

Submitted by LOOP Blog Editorial on

In reply to by Mary Poncy (not verified)

You’re very welcome, Mary. I hope you found these tips helpful.

Submitted by Shari Briggs (not verified) on

In reply to by Commenter (not verified)

When I drink coffee creamers, it makes my blood sugars go extremely high. Is there any other things that I could put in my coffee that will not make my blood sugars go so high?

Submitted by LOOP Blog Editorial on

In reply to by Shari Briggs (not verified)

Hi Shari. This sounds like a great question for your healthcare team, as they can provide you with the best recommendations and advice to meet your individual diabetes needs.

Submitted by Michael (not verified) on

In reply to by LOOP Blog Editorial

Yes, it depends. Each person living with diabetes figures out what s/he can eat. For example, I can eat potatoes with little or no insulin but a diabetes buddy of mine has to shoot extra insulin (in comparison to other carbs) when eating potatoes. Please consult with your healthcare provider to figure out work best for you.

Submitted by Don Devine (not verified) on

In reply to by Shari Briggs (not verified)

Drink it black. Soon you'll forget you used to need to ruin it!

Submitted by Tamara Herman,… (not verified) on

In reply to by Shari Briggs (not verified)

Shari, just a thought; your elevated glucose levels after your coffee could be due, in part, to the caffeine in the coffee. Caffeine is a stimulant whether its your heart or another vital organ in which the liver in this case. Caffeine may be enough to stimulate, or wake up, you liver especially after a night of sleep. Mornings are a typical time for insulin resistance. Have you tried coffee without the creamer to see if it has the same effect on your glucose? Also, try going without the coffee one morning to test if it might even be your basal rage that needs adjusting.

Submitted by JailDoctor (not verified) on

In reply to by Tamara Herman,… (not verified)

Shari, you could try the "sugar free" version of your coffee creamer.
When testing the effect of foods on my glucose levels, I test before eating the food in question, making sure I have been within a normal range for an hour or so. This establishes a baseline glucose level.
Start by establishing a baseline glucose level. Then drink the coffee without creamer. Wait 2 hours and retest. Note the glucose change after testing just the coffee. Now you know how coffee affects your blood sugar.
The next day do the same thing, at the same time but now with the coffee creamer added. Compare results and determine how much insulin you need prior to drinking coffee with creamer and if you want to continue using the creamer (I don't).
Hope this helps.

Submitted by Tina (not verified) on

In reply to by Shari Briggs (not verified)

Sugar free creamers work best for me! Splenda or yellow packet of no carb sugar work well together!!!!

Submitted by Michael Brown (not verified) on

In reply to by Commenter (not verified)

Sara, I thank you for your comments and suggestions. I have been a Type 1diabetic for 43 years. I am 5'10" tall,I weigh 185,I am, 62 years old.I stay fit with a stationary bike and walking and excersing at my gym. My A1c is 7.4.On the downside is that my kidneys are up to 3 damaaged I have had several lazer work on my eyes but I am still 20/20.Michael Brown

Submitted by Jeannine (not verified) on

In reply to by Michael Brown (not verified)

Hi Michael - I have been a Type 1 diabetic for 46 years, since I was 6. Isn't it amazing what changes in blood sugar control have happened in all those years. I come from a family of 12 kids and 6 of us were type 1 diabetics. We used to use glass syringes and the same needles for a long time. Everything got sterilized every morning. Of course we all had our own syringes & needles. The best thing that happened in this field was when disposable syringes came around. Yay for sharp needles! We've seen a lot of improvements in all these years. Getting an insulin pump, 6 years ago, was also one of the greatest changes in my life. Changes in how we check our BS. We used to have to pee on a little strip and compare the color to the bottle. You and I have seen amazing discoveries in diabetic management. I pray one day type 1 diabetes will be something of the past.

Submitted by Riley LeMay (not verified) on

In reply to by Jeannine (not verified)

I wish you could have had disposable needles when you were a kid. This is my 50th year as a type 1. I've always had access to disposables. I got my first Medtronic (MiniMed) pump in 1991, 25 yrs ago, and have loved it. Like you, I was glad to get my first meter and get away from the urine tape. When you used the tape it only told you what your BG was two hours ago! I don't know if you had kids or not. I have 3 sons all of whom were type 1. We caught our third son in time to get him treatment and stop the progression and he is still free of this nasty disease after about 20 years now. Take care of yourself!

Submitted by LOOP Blog Editorial on

In reply to by Michael Brown (not verified)

Michael, it’s so wonderful to hear you’re so active, and partake in various forms of exercises! I also enjoy exercising so can appreciate the effort you put forth to earning the benefits. You’re doing great, keep up the good work!

Submitted by l stewart (not verified) on

In reply to by Commenter (not verified)

How about a cure for diabetes,instead of the money the manufacturer make, insulin,needles pills and so on, insulin pump money down the drain,stopped blowing smoke up our butts.

Submitted by Michael (not verified) on

In reply to by l stewart (not verified)

Lol. Until there's the cure...

Submitted by LOOP Blog Editorial on

In reply to by l stewart (not verified)

I appreciate your candid feedback, Stewart. We agree resources and research should be pursued for a biological cure for diabetes. At Medtronic, our mission is focused on improving and extending lives through medical technology until a cure is found. In the interim, we want to improve the lives of people today, so they can live a longer, healthier life with diabetes.

Submitted by Don Devine (not verified) on

In reply to by Commenter (not verified)

5. Don’t stop moving -- This the most useful tip for ALL seasons and the answer to lowering your BG and your HbA1c.

Submitted by LOOP Blog Editorial on

In reply to by Don Devine (not verified)

You’re right, Don. Keeping active is very important all year round! How do you stay active in the throughout the different seasons?

Submitted by Melissa Riley (not verified) on

In reply to by Commenter (not verified)

I have been a diabetic for over 40 yeats but have not let it stop me from camping and ice climbing in the winter. Your tips are great. I have utilized them all. The best thing is to keep pump and glucometer next to your body when out in cold conditions and not just in a pocket of jacket. The best thing now is the new G670 pump with Guardian sensor.

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