Blood sugar testing in Winter
Many people with diabetes find that their blood sugar goes up during cold weather. Our ability to handle these changes is very much dependent on getting accurate information from our finger blood tests and dealing with highs and lows quickly.
I hope these tips will help you get the easiest and most accurate results …….
The accuracy of blood test meters and strips can be affected by the cold and meters may temporarily stop working if left in cold cars or unheated rooms. It is best to keep them at room temperature. They can also be affected by too much heat, so avoid leaving them near a heater or other heat source.
*FreeStyle Libre reader/meter and sensor are affected by the cold. I speak from experience. I found that they don’t work if exposed to a temperature below 4°C. The operating temperature is 10°C to 45°C (information from freestylediabetes.ie). Keeping the reader wrapped up and close to the body and placing an extra warm layer over the sensor may prevent issues.
It is harder to draw blood from cold fingers, so gloves are a must in very cold weather. Exercise also helps. Wrapping up warm will also help to prevent the cold from affecting blood sugar as well.
No amount of wrapping up and keeping fingers warm will help if you have a bad blood lancing device or don’t change the lancets at least daily. Lancing devices have improved immensely in recent years. They are given little thought but having the most suitable one makes life much easier.
My current favourite is Accu-Chek FastClix, but I am always on the lookout for improved models. I like this one because it is comfortable and almost pain-free to use and doesn’t have to be primed. The drum holds 6 lancets which can be changed with the touch of a button. Lancets are not exposed, even when used so no lancets at the bottom of my bag or in the car and best of all no accidental prodding with used lancets!
If possible wash hands with warm soapy water and rinse well before testing. This applies to children and adults with diabetes. It is particularly important if you have handled anything sweet, like fruit or a sticky jam jar. Some hand lotions can cause incorrect results. If you get an unexpected high result, it is worth washing or rewashing your hands and testing again, before making any insulin adjustments. I don’t use alcohol wipes because they can contribute to false results. They also cause dry skin and our poor fingers get battered enough without adding to their problems.
Rotating fingers and areas of each finger is even more important in Winter when skin is drier and more prone to infection. I use the sides of my fingers a lot. There are lancing devices that can draw blood from arms and legs too. Contact me if you would like the brand name. I haven’t used them so can’t recommend them.
It is much easier to draw blood when we are well hydrated. It is easy to get out of the habit of drinking water in the Winter time, but it is very important for both blood sugar values and for ease of getting a blood sample, whether a finger prick or a full blood check carried out by your Doctor. I find my *Libre scan results and actual blood glucose readings are nearer to each other when I am well hydrated.
Wrap up warm and drink plenty of water for easier and more accurate glucose testing this Winter!
* FreeStyle Libre is a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) which measures glucose in extracellular (cell) fluid which surrounds all cells in the body. Glucose comes from food that we eat and some is secreted by the liver. Lots of things contribute to blood glucose levels, but that is a discussion for another day. Our body digests food by mixing it with acids and enzymes in the stomach. The digestive process breaks down food containing carbohydrate (starch and sugar) into glucose. The stomach and small intestine absorb the glucose and release it into the bloodstream. It is at this point that blood glucose tests are performed using conventional meters for personal use by people with diabetes. From there glucose is distributed through cell fluid to the parts of the body that need it for energy. It is at this point that FreeStyle Libre measures glucose.