By: Blonde Two

If client confidentiality wasn’t so important, Blonde One and I could tell you a story or two about walking with youngsters with a variety of health issues. We always do our best to be as inclusive as possible and adapt routes, teams and procedures to suit requirements. That said, being responsible for youngsters with health issues, particularly diabetes, when you are out on the hills and away from immediate contact with either parents or help can be a daunting task and has had us biting our nails a few times. This is why we were particularly pleased to receive a link fromThe Diabetes Council in New York to this article, which gives sensible and helpful information about walking with diabetes.

The article is rather long and we don’t agree with a couple of things (particular the suggestion that Google Maps is a good walking tool) but there are some really well-informed points about walking (or hiking) with diabetes. We have picked out some of the key ones (plus a couple of our own) to share with you:

  1. Walking is great exercise and, as such, can form part of a diabetes management program.
  2. Walking is a recommended exercise for some diabetes related complications such as heart disease, arthritis, and high blood pressure.
  3. Walking uses additional calories and diabetic individuals should carry additional water, emergency snacks and medication as a precaution. They should also be aware (if appropriate) that insulin levels may change with exercise patterns.
  4. Being exposed to sunlight and becoming dehydrated can contribute to the risk of hypoglycaemia.
  5. Checking blood sugar before starting a walk will enable any low blood sugar issues to be treated before experiencing physical symptoms.
  6. Hypoglycaemia can suppress shivering, which in turn can result in hypothermia.
  7. Insulin should be kept in the coolest part of a rucksack or in a cool bag.
  8. High altitude may affect blood glucose monitors and insulin pumps. It may also increase blood-sugar levels.
  9. Some symptoms of altitude sickness are very similar to hypoglycaemia.
  10. Symptoms of hypoglycaemia (low blood-sugar levels) include disorientation, rapid pulse, trembling, pale skin, sweating, blurred vision, extreme hunger and anxiety and may be recognised first by a third-party.
  11. Symptoms of hyperglycaemia (high blood-sugar levels) include thirst, excessive urination and extreme fatigue (these can be dismissed as normal reactions to activity so care should be taken).
  12. Walking with a partner just in case of any issues and leaving information about your route and return time is recommended.

Of course, all individuals are different and the very best thing you can do if you are unsure of the impact of diabetes or other medical issues on either yourself, your walking companions or those you are leading is to talk to them and/or consult a medical professional. Forewarned is forearmed and it is far better to take precautions and be able to deal with emergencies than experience the possible alternatives.