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A Self-Care Guide for People with Diabetes during the Holiday Season

December 22, 2020
Being diabetic should not hold you back from enjoying life to the fullest. By having a well thought out plan of managing blood sugar levels in advance, any diabetic individual can enjoy the holidays as much as anyone else — including those special holiday meals and travelling, but of course by effectively managing any fluctuating blood sugar levels, even when gastroenteritis (stomach flu) is an issue.

 

Managing Your Blood Sugar Levels to Enjoy the Festive Meals

Here are a few tips:
  • Consider eating a small portion of food prior to attending the dinner.
  • If you are uncertain when the meal will be served, having small amounts of carbohydrates along with some protein and fats a few hours before is advised.
  • Choose food that match your normal carbohydrate intake; avoid food rich in concentrated sugar or high in fat (cold cuts, fried foods, coconut rich curries, etc.). If you are tempted to have several different food, try to eat only a few bites of each, so as to eat responsibly while satisfying your taste buds.
  • Limit alcoholic beverages to 1-2 standard sized drinks, for men up to 2 drinks, and for women 1 drink (1-2 glasses of wine, beer, or whiskey; cocktails should be avoided due to the high sugar amount). Make sure you also drink water or non-calorie containing beverages adequately.
 

Managing Your Blood Sugar Levels When Travelling

Unless you have acute complications or significantly elevated blood sugar levels shortly before your trip, there is no need to postpone your trip.

However, do be prepared:
  • Keep a personal ID on you stating that you are a diabetic as well as a complete list of your medications at all times.
  • If you are travelling abroad, ask your doctor to provide you with your detailed medical history pertaining to diabetes and its associated complications.
  • Keep your daily-use medications, insulin, and essential equipment with you (in your backpack or carry-on bag).
  • When planning a road trip, make sure to identify rest areas and restaurants before beginning your trip.
  • Load the car with your favorite snacks and drinks for the ride. Keep them in the appropriate coolers to avoid spoilage.
  • Wearing comfortable shoes is a must; consider bringing an extra pair along too.
 

Managing Blood Sugar Levels When Suffering from the Stomach Flu

One major appeal of travelling is exploring new places and enjoying the food; however, this bares the risk of being exposed to unaccustomed bacteria that can lead to gastroenteritis (stomach flu) — which makes management of blood sugar levels difficult. Blood sugar is likely to sharply rise due to the internal stress caused by the stomach flu — with the symptoms of diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite making things worse.

Here are some useful tips:
  • Do not completely stop taking your routine medications and insulin, instead, start checking your blood sugar levels more frequently. Do so with a finger prick test every 4-6 hours. This will help you decide how to adjust your medications.
  • If your blood sugar is quite high, and you have very little appetite but are not vomiting, try to eat a small amount of food and take your insulin by 1/3 of the normal dose as well as take half of your oral medications. As well, consult your doctor when you can on how to manage these issues.
  • Check your body temperature every 6-8 hours or when necessary.
  • If you have Type 1 Diabetes and are unable to eat properly, it is recommended that you go to the hospital for proper care. Do not try to manage it on your own since you are at risk of developing acute diabetic ketoacidosis.
  • If you have persistent vomiting (2-3 times) to the point where you are unable to hold any liquid or food in the stomach, go to the hospital for proper care.
Notes for family members, caretakers, and friends
  • If there is a change in their level of consciousness, they must have their blood sugar checked immediately. A blood sugar level below 70 mg/dl indicates hypoglycemia; the caretaker must give patients fast acting carbohydrates (e.g. juices, soft drinks, candies), placed under the tongue. Check their blood sugar level within 30 minutes, along with observing their level of consciousness. If symptoms improve, proceed with trying to feed them small amounts of carbohydrates. If there is no improvement, call for emergency care immediately.
  • If their change in level of consciousness is associated with a significantly elevated blood sugar level (250 mg/dl or higher), encourage drinking water and resuming medications and insulin at half the regular dosage. Check their blood sugar level and assess their state of consciousness. If there is no improvement in 3 to 4 hours, they should be taken to the hospital.



By the Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Clinical Nutrition Center at Bumrungrad International Hospital
 

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