decorational arrow Lifestyle | 6 min. read

Diabetes day by day

A key to good diabetes management is awareness of yourself and your surroundings. By paying attention to how your body can react in different situations and careful planning, you can continue to be active in all types of environments and situations.

Managing diabetes in the workplace

Many people can manage their diabetes without being affected at work. However, a full work day may mean that you struggle with eating healthy, taking medication or keeping your blood sugar stable. Here are some things you can do to feel your best in the workplace.

  • Start the day right: Never miss breakfast. This can lead to hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), especially if you are on insulin or a medication to increase your insulin levels. Hypoglycaemia can affect your health, performance and safety at work.
  • Plan your meals: Take your own healthy packed lunch and snacks to work – you'll know exactly what you're eating and be able to plan accordingly. If you use a canteen or shop, get to know the healthy choices
  • Testing and injecting: Make sure you have access to a hygienic place where you can test and inject in comfort
  • Pens and medication: Always keep a spare pen at work. If you need to store your medication in a refrigerator, label it clearly so it is not used or discarded by accident. Use medication before the expiry date and read the label for 'in-use' storage guidance
  • Know your rights: The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) has developed a Charter of Rights for people with diabetes  that covers fair treatment, career progression and support in the workplace. Many countries have adopted similar charters
  • Inform recruiters and employers: There are usually no legal requirements to tell recruiters about your diabetes. However, a new employer is allowed to ask appropriate health-related questions to ensure you are able to do the job
  • Tell your colleagues: It's up to you whether you tell your colleagues. If you do, you may consider providing a simple explanation about diabetes and guidance on what to do if you experience hypoglycaemia so they feel confident about helping you if needed

Managing diabetes while travelling

Planning
  • Supplies: Take extra medication and equipment and pack it in both your hand luggage and suitcase in case of loss, breakdown or delay
  • Snacks: Prepare starchy snacks and fluids to be carried at all times in case of hypos or unexpected gaps between meals
  • Documentation: Always carry diabetes identification (such as a card or bracelet), a letter from your doctor that states you have diabetes, a replacement prescription and your insurance policy documents
  • Security: Check airport security requirements relating to medicine and injection devices in advance
En route
  • Keep moving: Remaining still for extended periods can raise your blood sugar levels. Get up and walk around the plane or ship cabin and take frequent rest stops if travelling by car
  • Watch out for hypos: Check your blood sugar regularly when driving and pull over at the first sign of a hypo. Always keep something sugary at hand, just in case
  • Inform staff: Make cabin staff or stewards aware of your diabetes in case any problems arise
  • Time zone changes: Be prepared to adjust mealtimes and medication as travel days get longer or shorter
At your destination
  • Hot weather : High temperatures degrade insulin, but they also increase the speed that it is absorbed, creating a risk of hypos. Monitor your blood sugar levels closely and be ready to adjust your diet or dosage
  • Cold weather: Insulin is absorbed more slowly in cold temperatures, but warming up quickly may result in a hypo. Monitor your blood sugar levels closely and be ready to adjust your diet or dosage
  • Medicine storage: Extreme temperatures can affect how insulin, GLP-1 and glucometers work
  • Protect hands and feet: Take care of your hands and feet if you have neuropathy (nerve disease) – numbness may prevent you from realising they are sunburned or frozen

Living with your daily insulin injection 

Having an insulin injection routine can mean making accommodations to make sure you are able to check your blood sugar and take your medication when needed. Read on to find out what you can or should do when injecting insulin in different situations.

If you are unwell

You may not feel like checking your blood sugar levels or injecting your diabetes medication when you are sick. However, it is really important that you continue to do this to keep your diabetes under control.

Your blood sugar levels can rise when you’re ill, so keep checking and adjust your insulin dose if necessary. If you are nauseous or vomiting, you may not be taking in enough carbohydrates (sugar). When you do not eat or take your insulin, you are at risk of getting low blood sugar. Try sipping sugary drinks or eating a little ‘easy’ food, such as soup or ice cream, or suck on sugar tablets.

If you are playing sports

Generally, it is a good idea to take your insulin pen, a mobile phone and a sugary snack with you when exercising so that you are prepared in case of emergencies. Make sure you are wearing a medical alert that tells others you are on insulin.

Also, make sure you are not exposing the insulin in your pen to extreme temperatures (>25°C, <4°C), such as by leaving it in the sun or next to a frosty playing field.

Before starting any exercise programme, however, speak to your diabetes health care professional and ask for their advice. They will probably give you a general check-up and tell you how to adjust your food and medication, including insulin, to balance your blood sugar control accordingly. 

To find out more about managing diabetes with exercise, read our section on getting active

If you are pregnant

It is perfectly alright to continue to inject into your tummy as long as you can still pinch the skin or you are using a very short needle. If you are concerned, use other fatty areas such as your thighs, upper arms (only if advised) or buttocks. 

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