• Sarah

How to Hike Safely with Diabetes

Updated: Apr 12, 2020

Hike Safely with Diabetes

Remember, remember the fifth of November will always and forever mean a whole different history in the Skilton household. It all started in November 2004, the fateful night when Dunk was rushed to the hospital. Do not pass go. No sparklers or bonfires for us.

Dunk had been ill for a long time, in fact, much of the preceding year and thought he had discovered a brilliant new diet where you drank litres of water and lost loads of weight (although you had zero energy and slept most of your life away). I assured him, women across the world would have sussed that one millennium ago. I don’t know why, but I encouraged him to get a diabetes test as the local pharmacy was offering free ones at the time.

After copious nagging and most likely just to shut me up, he went to the local chemist for the free test but unfortunately, it appeared their test kit was faulty because it gave a ridiculously high reading and it was suggested he should visit his GP for a more reliable test.

More nagging and an eventual doctors visit on that fateful day once again showed a reading so stupidly high that the Dr thought his machine was also broken until Dunk commented that was exactly what the Pharmacist had said. Dr immediately called an ambulance and sent Dunk straight to the hospital, do not pass go, do not stop to collect your belongings. I received a call from the surgery instructing me to pack a bag for him and meet him at the ward.

After several days in the hospital to stabilise his blood numbers and a place in local diabetic history as having the highest numbers ever seen by the GP (36). My hubby returned home a Type 1, Adult-onset, Diabetic and had to overcome his fear of needles sharpish (see what I did there).

For the remainder of that year and in fact well into the next Dunk struggled to cope with ‘shooting-up’ as he likes to say in public, four times a day and fought against accepting the radical changes he needed to make to his lifestyle. I could see depression creeping up on him like Stephen King’s ‘The Mist’.

Diabetes Symptoms

If you or your loved one experience the following symptoms that do not improve with time, please visit your GP.

Know the 4 Ts?

  • Toilet

Going to the toilet a lot. Bed wetting by a previously dry child or heavier nappies in babies.

  • Thirsty

Being really thirsty and not being able to quench the thirst.

  • Tired

Feeling more tired than usual.

  • Thinner

Losing weight or looking thinner than usual.

One in five cases of type 1 diabetes is diagnosed in the over 40s. It is important to know the signs and understand the symptoms as very often it will be assumed to be type 2 due to the patient's older age.

Treatment and Management of Diabetes

When children are diagnosed with type 1, there is often a built-in support system at diagnosis, including adult family members, an endocrinologist, a diabetes educator, a psychologist, and even summer camp to teach and motivate the child. When adults are diagnosed they are often expected to figure out this new life of diabetes management on their own. As a family we found this to be very much the case when Dunk was diagnosed. We were given a booklet and one group ‘training session’ for an afternoon.

He sees a diabetic nurse once every six months for a check-up and has yearly eye screens as he has begun having diabetic retinopathy. A complication of the eye, where the blood vessels become damaged over time due to the high blood glucose levels.

Production of Insulin

Every day for type 1 diabetes, the trick is to control your blood glucose between a set of required levels. Type 1 diabetes occurs because your body doesn't produce any insulin. This means you need regular insulin injections to keep your glucose levels normal.

You need to get used to 'carb-counting' and calculating from that the necessary dose of insulin. You also need to factor in any hiking or another exercise you plan to do, how well you are at the time and what you have had to drink.

You need to monitor your blood glucose using a special kit to prick the end of a finger and placing a drop of blood onto a special strip in a machine that calculates your blood sugar level.

Top tip - from one of our lovely readers, Gail says, "My tip would be to test your blood glucose regularly: it's easy to drop low and not notice it's happening if you're distracted."

We love this tip when you are hiking you are using more energy than usual and you definitely need to test more often. Thank you, Gail.

Hypoglycaemia - What happens when you hypo? If you get these calculations wrong you risk Hypoglycemia. This happens when your blood glucose levels become very low. Mild hypoglycemia (a "hypo") can make you feel shaky, weak and hungry, but it can usually be controlled by eating or drinking something sugary.

If you have a hypo, you should initially have a form of carbohydrate that will act quickly, a high GI food, such as a sugary drink or glucose tablets. This should be followed by a longer-acting carbohydrate, a low GI food, such as a cereal bar, sandwich or piece of fruit.

In most cases, these measures will be enough to raise your blood glucose level to normal, although it may take a few hours. If you develop severe hypoglycaemia, you may become drowsy and confused, and you may even lose consciousness.

If this occurs, you may need to have an injection of glucagon into your muscle or glucose into a vein. Glucagon is a hormone that quickly increases your blood glucose levels. Ensure you make a plan with a family member in the case of an emergency and always carry a recovery kit with you at all times.

We discuss more how to camp safely with diabetes here.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis - High blood glucose levels.

The other extreme to be aware of is Hyperglycemia. This can occur when your blood glucose levels become too high.

Hyperglycemia can happen for several reasons, such as eating too much, being unwell or not taking enough insulin.

If hyperglycemia is left untreated, it can lead to a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis, where the body begins to break down fats for energy instead of glucose, resulting in a buildup of ketones (acids) in your blood. This can ultimately damage your internal organs, especially if you regularly allow your blood numbers to run high.

Living with Diabetes

It was hard coming to terms with a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. It means long term health complications, a change in lifestyle and being completely dependent on synthetic drugs to keep you alive for the rest of time, but like everything, in life, we try to make the best of our situation.

We have adjusted and in fact, the lifestyle changes benefit everyone as it involves adopting a healthier look at food and carbohydrates, exercise and moderation of treats and alcohol.

In order to keep his restricted driving license and to comply with car insurance regulations Dunk is required to test his numbers before every car journey (if driving) and every 2 hours after starting out. If he hypos then he not allowed to drive for a minimum of 45 minutes after the onset of symptoms. This has created a couple of obstacles, but again nothing a bit of communication and planning cannot overcome.

We have faced two big issues in his diabetic life.

1. We went on a trip to Birmingham to visit family. When we arrived we realised we had forgotten to pack the insulin. We had to go to A&E wait for many, many hours while the medics confirmed he was, in fact, a genuine type 1 diabetic and then had to wait for several more while they woke a pharmacist on call that could prescribe an emergency prescription. Lesson well and truly learned.

2. We were lucky enough to go on holiday to Australia. Dunk need a letter from his doctor to be allowed to travel with sharps on a plane, that we had to declare to the airline security. All okay until we had a stopover in Hong Kong and Dunk was scarily detained when we declared ourselves to security again for many hours while they established what insulin was and whether we were terrorists. No joke. Kids crying that they would never see their dad again. True Story. Fortunately, one that had a happy safe trip to Oz ending.

Fight Diabetes

The reason I say Dunk is diabetic rather than ‘has diabetes’ is because it has changed his make-up. It can’t be cured; it is now part of who he is. Those that have type 2 diabetes are different though because it can generally be cured with very careful management of diet and/or tablets. I discuss this concept in an article I wrote about my youngest being Autistic rather than saying he has Autism.

World Diabetes Day

World Diabetes Day is observed on 14 November every year. Each year there is a theme for the day to increases awareness about diabetes around the globe.

World Diabetes Day is internationally recognised and is an official United Nations Day.

The aim this year is to raise awareness of the impact that diabetes has on the family and support network of those affected, as well as promoting the role of the family in the management, care, prevention and education of diabetes.

Why is November 14th World Diabetes Day? November 14th is a significant date in the diabetes calendar because it marks the birthday of the man who co-discovered insulin, Frederick Banting.

Over to You...

Now it is your turn. Do you live with diabetes or know someone who does? Join the discussion, we would love to hear your stories, please. Comment below or find us on social media as @AdventureAcces using the hashtag #AdventureWild.

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