High altitude and blood sugars


(Sally) #1

I live at 5280 feet now and find it harder than managing diabetes at sea level. But going up to 8600’ is a whole different matter for some reason. Does anyone have experience with dosing and getting accurate blood sugars at high altitudes? I always seem to run higher and need lots more insulin in the mountains even with extra exercise.
I have also heard that altitude makes testing less accurate. I’ve had diabetes for many decades and usually stay quite level but the mountains have me stumped. Can anyone help?


(Stacey) #2

I hope you can get an answer as we went hiking up in the mountain and noticed my sons dexcom was way off compared to his blood glucose checks. dexcom told me it should be fine, but we noticed a difference after leaving the mountain.


(srozelle) #3

We live at sea level, and head to the mountains to ski 2x/yr. My daughter (9, Dx’d at 6) runs high the whole time. We figure on the plane, it’s the sitting still for hours. We’ve gotten much better at counting the restaurant carbs, which was surely a contributing factor, too, but the bottom line is that in addition to all that, she just needs more insulin at altitude, even though she’s skiing hard all day. She also needs more in the cold weather. You probably know to be careful in the hot tub — 15 mins. there will drop her 100mg/dl — and hot weather v. cold weather makes a difference, too.

Honestly, I don’t have any advice — just validation that it’s not your imagination. (No insight on the CGM; we don’t have one.)


(Mara) #4

Noticed this when we went on vacation to Colorado. Glad I found this thread and realized it wasn’t my imagination. We’re heading to Montana in a few days, so I guess I’ll just expect the blood sugars to skyrocket again.


(Sally) #5

Hi all. Thanks you for your responses to my query.

It’s been very gratifying to discover that I don’t have some idiosyncratic wacko reaction to altitude. Since I always start getting high blood sugars in the mountains after 24 hours even with hiking and extra activity, I am just going to raise my basal insulin by one unit if I am going to be there for say, a week. Maybe 2 if that’s not enough to normalize things. If I’m going to 8600’ for just a few days, I’ll just increase my fast-acting insulin and won’t be surprised if I run a bit high overnight. That’s my plan to keep somewhat balanced.

I did talk with the Accucheck folks and the Aviva strips have been tested at up to 10,000 feet. He said it is the fine print included in the box. He also mentioned that using control solution might help. I should have thought of that but of course mine is out of date.

My glucose monitor and cgm keep aligned pretty well at altitude as long as the arrow is going sideways. At one point I was using Freestyle strips and they were terrible at altitude.

Best wishes everyone the mountains are beconing, beautiful and definitely worth it. Sally


(flebeccaann) #6

Hi Sally!

I grew up in the mountains in Colorado and then went to college in Kansas. I definitely noticed that my insulin needs would change based on the elevation I was at. I recommend focusing on your basal/long acting insulin. When I go up in elevation I need more insulin, and when I go visit the beach I need less basal insulin.

Also, you can look up a guy named Will Cross. He has had T1D for a long time and he summitted Mount Everest! He has talked about how when he went up in elevation he needed more insulin, even though he was exercising all day.