Everyone loves a sun holiday. Especially when you live in Ireland where it rains 24/7. But it's not only that- There's nothing much better than being able to take a break from every-day routines and eat your weight in food, guilt-free.
However, as a type 1 diabetic there are a few things that you need to consider that others don't when you're on holiday. Between waking up and staying out later, replacing meals with ice creams and over-indulging in wine, it can be easy to let those sugar levels run wild.
Furthermore, the heat from the sun not only lowers blood sugars but can also damage insulin. So, here are a few tips that I've found helpful during my time over seas.
Always carry sweets.
Yes, this is a bit of an obvious one but it's definitely the most important. It's so easy to get caught in a situation where there's nothing available to raise your sugar levels, for example on public transport.
So how can you prevent this from happening?
When I'm packing for my holiday, I put a mini packet of skittles or lucozade tablets in every jacket, shorts pocket and bag. No, I probably will not consume 20 packets of skittles on my 7 day break, but it's better to be safe than sorry!
Another thing is to never forget to replace the packet of sweets in your bag if you've had to use them. I got into a routine of checking my bags at the end of the day to ensure that I had a sugar-source in them for the following day. If you leave it until the morning it can be far too easy to slip your mind when rushing out the door!
It can be difficult to distinguish a hypo in the heat. It's easy to think that you're just dehydrated and feeling dizzy from the sun, but this may not be the case- always consider that it might a hypo!! When I was sunbathing on the beach I always made sure to check my blood sugars every hour or so to make sure I was in range.
It's important to anticipate when you could potentially have a hypo and to be expecting it. For example after a night out drinking, I would be prepared for a hypo the following morning, which is when alcohol seems to affect my blood sugars.
Also, if I'm planning to do a bit of exploring and walking around throughout the day, I would take one less unit of my long-acting insulin. Having a look at the step-tracker on your phone is something I would definitely recommend. It shows you how unknowingly active you are being and this can often explain unexpected hypos that occur throughout the day, and is easily avoidable with a simple insulin adjustment.
To read more about how to handle a hypo you can click here.
A lot of alcoholic drinks cause a spike in blood sugars. When you take insulin to lower this spike you run the risk of having a hypo later on. I've found that a glass of white wine doesn't have much of an affect on my sugar levels (and is so cheap in Spain and Italy!)
My other favourite drinks that don't require insulin are gin and slimline tonic or vodka soda water and lime. Don't worry about being a nit-picker, make sure you order a slimline tonic as the normal tonics will increase your blood sugars. Diet soft drinks are also another reliable mixer.
Lastly, always remember to check your levels before bed. If mine are below 6.0 I'll always have a little snack to ensure that I won't have a hypo in the middle of the night. I'd recommend buying some sort of carbs at the beginning of the holiday to have in the room for situations like those. Something simple and under 15g, for example a mini pack of crisps or 2 rice/corn cakes.
Keeping Insulin Cool.
Insulin needs to be kept cool, so make sure you don't leave it in the direct sunlight. If I'm at the beach I put mine under the beach towel beside a bottle of water to keep it cool. Also, if it's hot in the hotel room/apartment, store it in the fridge or minibar.
Alternatively, if you're very concerned about your insulin over-heating, you can click here to find wallets which are designed to keep insulin cool in hot climates, made by a company called FRIO.
I would definitely recommend bringing plenty of refills so if you've found that your blood sugar is high and can't pinpoint a reason for it, you can simply change the insulin!
Consider the Carbs
After eating that paella, my sugar levels went through the roof. Why? Because I didn't consider the carbs. I took the same amount of insulin as I would with a normal rice dish as I presumed I wouldn't eat much of what was in front of me.
However, by nibbling away throughout the meal, I probably ended up eating about 2/3rds of that monstrosity of a dish. What I should've done was dish out a few spoonfuls onto my plate at the start so I knew how much I was eating and how much insulin to take with it.
Also, don't forget to count those sides of bread! You wouldn't eat a sandwich for lunch without taking insulin for it. The bread basket is easily overlooked as it is not your main meal, but it shouldn't be.
Lastly, I'm going to automatically assume that you will have (at least) one pizza while you're on holidays. So click here to read about how to eat a pizza and maintain a healthy blood sugar.
So those are my top tips for maintaining a good control over your blood sugar levels while on holidays! Hope they've helped!