People with diabetes mellitus often tell me that one of the greatest challenges is managing diabetes during the holidays. For those facing this struggle, I’d like to share some tips prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Diabetes mellitus is a condition resulting in high blood sugars that can lead to both short-term and long-term health complications. It is not uncommon for adults with diabetes to also suffer from conditions such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and chronic heart or kidney conditions. Collectively, managing these conditions can be challenging during the holiday season.
Holiday challenges include travel logistics, access to health services and alterations to daily routines that may affect the diabetes self-management plan.
Those who will travel for the holidays should be certain to pack adequate medications and supplies for the duration of the trip. This includes pills, blood sugar testing supplies and – if needed – insulin and related supplies. Commercial carriers, such as airlines, commonly recommend that these things be packed with carry-on luggage to avoid problems that may result if checked bags are delayed or lost.
Be aware of your commercial carrier’s rules regarding security and baggage as well as issues related to services offered en route. Meals often are not routinely offered to air passengers, even on flights of long duration. This can present a challenge for diabetics on insulin or other medications that can lower blood sugar to dangerous levels when meals are missed. Precautions include packing meals or snacks with carry-on luggage as well as emergency supplies such as glucose tablets or gel and a glucagon kit for people on insulin. When meals will be offered by a commercial carrier, consideration should be given to an advance request for a diabetic meal selection.
Medications and medical supplies should be properly labeled in their original container. Be certain to request child-proof safety caps for medication bottles if visiting a home with small children. Insulin should be packed in a small cooler with refrigerated packs. people with diabetes should carry medical identification regarding their diagnosis as well as contact information for their medical provider and a medication list in case of emergency.
Once travel arrangements have been made, plan to enjoy your holiday travel. The biggest challenge will be departure from usual mealtime routines and physical activity routines. Make daily exercise such as walking with family members part of your holiday schedule.
It is also important to prepare in advance for holiday feasts and the variety of traditional holiday foods that are tempting this time of year. It is OK to enjoy your holiday meals as long as you use some basic good judgment. Eating a small healthful snack before the feast can help reduce overeating. Portion sizes of sugary, salty and fatty foods should be kept small. Eat slowly and give yourself time to enjoy your meal, and follow your body’s cues and don’t overeat.
Dr. Matthew A. Clark is a board-certified physician in internal medicine and pediatrics practicing at the Ute Mountain Health Center in Towaoc.