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Diabetes and traveling to cold areas: Special Considerations

by IBD Medical on October 10, 2023


For individuals with diabetes, managing their condition is a year-round endeavor. However, winter travel can present unique challenges and considerations that require extra planning and preparation. Cold weather can have a significant impact on diabetes management, potentially affecting blood sugar levels and overall well-being. In this article, we will discuss the various ways in which winter weather can influence diabetes, as well as offer practical solutions to help you enjoy safe and worry-free winter travel.

Cold Weather and Blood Sugar


  1. Hypoglycemia Risk - One of the primary concerns for people with Type 2 diabetes during winter is the risk of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). Cold temperatures can lead to vasoconstriction, causing blood vessels to narrow. This reduced blood flow to extremities, like fingers and toes, can affect the absorption of insulin, potentially causing blood sugar to drop more quickly. Furthermore, in the colder seasons, individuals often turn to saunas or hot tubs as a means of keeping warm. The heightened temperatures in these settings can increase insulin sensitivity, potentially resulting in a drop in blood sugar levels.
Solution - Be vigilant about checking your blood sugar more frequently when traveling in the cold. Keep your glucose chews or fast-acting carbohydrates on hand to treat hypoglycemia promptly.


  1. Less Physical Activity - Cold weather may discourage physical activity, making it challenging to maintain an active lifestyle. Physical activity is essential for managing diabetes, as it helps regulate blood sugar levels.

Solution - Plan indoor activities like swimming or visiting local gyms at your destination. If you're in an area with winter sports, consider activities like cross-country skiing or ice skating.


  1. Altered Appetite - Some individuals experience changes in appetite during cold weather. This can lead to overeating or consuming unhealthy foods, which can negatively impact blood sugar control.

Solution - Maintain a balanced diet even when the temperature drops. Opt for warming, low-glycemic index foods like soups, stews, and oatmeal. Carry healthy snacks to curb cravings.


Winter Travel Tips for People with Diabetes


  1. Pack Extra Supplies - Cold weather can affect the performance of insulin and blood glucose meters. Always pack extra insulin, test strips, and glucose monitoring equipment. Make sure to have all you supplies organised in 2 diabetes carry cases or diabetes organisers  
  1. Keep Insulin at the Right Temperature - Insulin should be kept at the recommended temperature. Use an insulated bag or a insulin cooling pouch to protect it from extreme cold.
  1. Layer Up - Dressing warmly is essential to avoid hypothermia. Wear layers to trap heat, and don't forget to protect your extremities with gloves, hats, and warm socks.
  1. Stay Hydrated - Cold weather can be dehydrating, which can affect blood sugar levels. Drink plenty of water and warm herbal teas to stay hydrated.
  1. Emergency Plan - Always have a diabetes emergency plan in place, and inform travel companions about it. Carry a diabetes ID card and wear a medical alert bracelet.
  1. Check Your Feet - Cold weather can numb your extremities, making it hard to notice injuries or foot problems. Inspect your feet daily and moisturize to prevent cracks and dryness.
  1. Travel with a Buddy - If possible, travel with a companion who knows about your diabetes and can assist in case of an emergency.

Winter travel can be a delightful experience, but it comes with specific challenges for individuals managing diabetes. By understanding how cold weather affects blood sugar levels and taking appropriate precautions, you can enjoy a safe and enjoyable winter trip. Remember to plan ahead, stay vigilant about your blood sugar levels, and keep your diabetes management supplies readily available. With these precautions in place, you can confidently embrace the beauty of winter while keeping your diabetes well-controlled. Stay warm, stay safe, and enjoy your winter travels!

Kelsie Patterson courageously faced her own diagnosis of type 1 diabetes with determination and drive, pushing her to pursue a multi-disiplinary approach to become a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Care & Educator Specialist, and Certified Personal Trainer. Her passion for helping others motivated her to start "The Diabetes Dietitian" where she works directly with people managing type 1 diabetes to gain control over their blood sugars in order to achieve any life goals. 
The content of this Website or Blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website or Blog.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call 911 (in the US) or 000 (in Australia) immediately, call your doctor, or go to the emergency room/urgent care. 

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