Enjoying Winter Sports With Type 1: Safety Tips

Winter sports can be fun and exhilarating, but cold weather creates specific safety concerns for those with type 1 diabetes.

You may already be an old hand at managing your blood sugar, or your child’s during skiing, skating, sledding, or snowboarding adventures, but for those who are learning the ropes - or those needing reminders - here are some winter sport safety tips:

    Monitor, Monitor. Outdoor winter activities take a lot of energy, plus the body requires fuel (glucose) to stay warm. This puts people with type 1 diabetes at increased risk for a low, so test every one to two hours.

    Since glucose meters can be inaccurate when cold, plan how to keep yours within its recommended temperature range while outdoors. You might, for instance, pocket it close to your body under layers of clothes.

    Insulin. Insulin should be kept between 40 and 86 degrees F. Insulin bottles and syringes, or pens can be left at a ski lodge, or other warm area, or keep them next to your body in a travel pouch that is worn around the neck. An insulin wallet tucked into the interior pocket of a warm winter coat may also suffice. Insulin pump users should carry their pumps under layers of clothing, close to the body.

    Ready For Lows. Never engage in strenuous winter activities alone. Preferably, at least one of your companions will recognize low blood sugar symptoms, and know how to help. Wear a medic alert bracelet/necklace, and carry snacks, or glucose tablets—without fail.

    Be sure to eat breakfast before your outing, and always stop for lunch. It’s wiser to take a break from the fun and eat, than to spend time recovering from a low.

    Avoiding Lows. Remember that glucose levels can drop between four and 24 hours after physical activity. These delayed lows can be prevented by consuming extra carbs, or by lowering your insulin dose (or both) beforehand. Also, eat a carb and protein snack (e.g., cheese and crackers, hot cocoa made with milk) within 30 minutes of stopping your activity.

    Insulin adjustments are often recommended prior to, or during strenuous activity. You might, for instance, benefit by decreasing your evening or morning dose before an active outing. Dosing changes and the timing of adjustments varies with the type of insulin used, and delivery methods. If you are not sure about what alterations to make talk to your doctor, or a diabetes educator.

“The problem with winter sports is that - follow me closely here - they generally take place in winter,” wrote humorist Dave Barry. However, there is also nothing like fun in the snow to refresh, and energize the child within us. A bit of planning, and we can all stay safe while enjoying the frosty pleasures of the season.

Source: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

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