The Holidays and Blood Sugars: Planning for the Unplanned

Holiday Blood Sugars: Planning for the Unplanned

And just like that, with a snap of a finger, 2022 is coming to a close and 2023 is around the corner.

This time of the year always seems to go by just a little bit faster with all of the fall festivities, holiday traditions and gatherings creating busier than normal schedules.  With all of that excitement and activity, it’s possible your usual routines and schedules will change, which may cause changes in your blood sugar levels.  Changes to your diet, exercise routine, medication adherence, self-care, or sleep schedule can sometimes be unexpected.  Sometimes external factors that you can’t control could affect your blood sugars, such as when holiday travel plans are delayed or canceled.   How do you handle the unexpected highs and lows at this time of the year?

As a person with diabetes or as someone who supports a person with diabetes, how do you plan and prepare for the unexpected? Do you have a plan?

What does the word plan mean to you? Merriam-Webster provides the following definitions: “a method for achieving an end” or “an often-customary method of doing something”.  When you think about managing your diabetes (or that of a loved one), how would you define or describe your plan of care -particularly for managing the highs and lows of blood sugar levels?  Take a moment to think about how often you pay attention to plans around you that are meant to keep you safe and save your life.

For example, every time you board an airplane for travel, the flight attendants go through safety instructions – communicating with the passengers on what to do during take-off and landing, on the expectations during the flight, and most importantly on what to do “in case of” an emergency.  Thankfully, the need to use these safety instructions to address an emergency is rare, but regardless, the passengers and flight crew are informed and ready.  When you get to your hotel, do you notice that on the back of every hotel door, there is a map communicating to the hotel guest how to find the nearest exit or stairwell “in case of” an emergency?  In both of these situations, a plan is communicated so that the traveler or hotel guest knows what to do in case of an emergency.

When thinking about your diabetes, how often do you think about your plan for managing a severe hypoglycemia event?

How have you, your loved ones, and your healthcare team discussed your hypoglycemia treatment plan? The American Diabetes Association (ADA) issues important guidelines for recognizing and treating low blood sugar.  As a person with diabetes, you have learned that low blood glucose (blood glucose levels below 70 mg/dL) requires action to bring your blood glucose levels back into a safe target range. Because everyone recognizes and reacts to low blood sugar levels and treatment differently, it is really important to talk about your personal hypoglycemia treatment plan with your healthcare team.  Make sure everyone in your support team (e.g., family members, co-workers, friends) are fully aware of your plan for treating mild hypoglycemia and what to do in case of a severe hypoglycemia event.  For further information on how to help educate and inform those closest to you, please see the following article shared in September 2021, Educate Your Inner Circle on Hypoglycemia: It Could Save your Life.

The first step to ending the year safely and starting 2023 on the right foot is to make sure you and your healthcare team discuss your blood sugar numbers—including how often you have hypoglycemia, what can trigger hypoglycemia, and how you usually treat it at every visit.

You want to design a clear hypoglycemia treatment plan that includes:

  • A list of your signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia including severe hypoglycemia. About 1 in 4 people have no signs or symptoms.
  • Your plan to treat mild to moderate hypoglycemia. What fast-acting carbohydrates can you have on hand at all times that work best?
  • Your plan to treat severe hypoglycemia when low blood sugar interferes with your thinking or even drinking or eating a carbohydrate source.
  • Have an unexpired ready-to-use glucagon with you and make sure family members, friends and others around you know where it is and how to administer it

Having a plan can mean you can confidently enjoy the rest of 2022 and be prepared for exciting journeys in 2023.

Additional Resources:

Expect the Unexpected When It Comes to Severe Hypoglycemia in T2D

Treating a Low: When to Consume Sugar & When to Use Glucagon

Glucagon Saved Our Butts: Dr E. & Dr. P. Share Their Personal Scares

A Renaissance in Glucagon: Ready to Use, Ready to Have!

The New Normal: Glucagon Ready to Go

How to Boost Your Hypoglycemia Confidence in 2020

Lifesaving Tools to Prevent and Treat Hypoglycemia

The Red Flags and Invisible Signs of Euglycemic DKA

How to Keep DKA at Bay: Signs, Symptoms, and Solutions

Everything You Need to Know about DKA

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