As firearm deer season nears thousands of hunters are preparing to take to the woods. Some of those hunters will be diabetics, and those hunters need to take special precautions to make the hunt safe and successful. While a diabetic may have his or her blood sugar in good control at home the change in routine, change in eating habits and physical stress associated with a hunting trip may cause problems with blood sugar control. Here are some tips for those with diabetes who will be going hunting this season.
Before you go hunting you may want to ask your doctor if he feels you are healthy enough for hunting. Ask him what he wants your blood sugar levels to be and what to do if the levels get too high or low if you are out in the woods if you aren’t sure how to handle these situations. New diabetics may need more guidance in order to recognize high or low blood sugar reactions and know how to treat them.
Carry identification on you stating you are a diabetic (and stating any other medical conditions). This can be a neck chain, bracelet or even a plastic wallet card. Also carry a list of the medications you are taking and the dose you take. Your emergency contact numbers and your doctor’s name and number should also be carried.
A cell phone that has service in the area you will be hunting is an invaluable tool for anyone who has medical issues. It could save your life. Carry it in a waterproof pouch or container. You may want a charger for the phone that plugs into a car battery. Of course you will keep the phone turned off when hunting unless it’s needed for an emergency call.
Bring your blood glucose meter and plenty of test strips. Carry them on you in a waterproof bag or container. You’ll need to check and monitor your blood sugar frequently on your hunting trip since your normal routine; meal times, meal amounts and exercise levels will be changed. If you start feeling ill you’ll need to know what your sugar level is to make the right decisions for treatment. Don’t leave the meter in camp; you are more likely to have a problem when out in the woods. And don’t be embarrassed to check your sugar level several times a day; you’ll be more embarrassed if you have to be carried out of the field.
So you can remedy any blood sugar problems carry your medications (and insulin if used) and some glucose tablets with you. Glucose tablets are the easiest way to treat low blood sugar and can be found in any drugstore. Put these items in that waterproof pack you carry your meter in. Bring enough medication with you to cover the time you expect to be spending in the field and at least one extra dose in case your return to camp or home gets delayed. Make sure to carry medications for other medical conditions you are being treated for also.
Diabetic hunters should hunt with a buddy. That buddy should know you are diabetic. It’s a good idea to let other members of a hunting party know you are diabetic too. If you become ill and can’t help yourself someone should know what to do - such as how to check your blood sugar level and when to give you glucose tablets or medication. They should be told to call 911 or otherwise get you medical attention if you become unable to help yourself.
Don’t drink while hunting or even while in camp at the end of the day. It’s never a good idea for diabetics to drink or hunters either for that matter. Alcohol affects your blood glucose control. In addition, a person with slurred words, an unsteady gait and confusion, even passing out, may be mistaken for being drunk when in fact the diabetic is having a low or high blood sugar reaction. If you have alcohol on your breath, you may not receive the help you need, with serious or deadly implications.
Try to maintain a regular meal schedule and carry snacks with you to help control your blood glucose level. Watch that you don’t overdo the carbs, but on the other hand realize that you may need slightly more carbs than you normally do since you will generally be more active. That’s why you need to monitor your blood sugar levels.
Keep yourself hydrated. Drink lots of water and avoid too many caffeine filled beverages. Becoming dehydrated can affect your blood glucose level.
Keep your feet and hands warm and dry. Make sure you treat any blisters you may get from hunting boots or shoes promptly. Diabetics may have less sensation and blood circulation in the hands and feet and should make sure they don’t get frost bite in the extremities by wearing warm, waterproof gloves, socks and shoes.
If you are out of condition, make sure to rest frequently and don’t push yourself to exhaustion. Being overly tired may make you more susceptible to errors in judgment as well as causing blood sugar problems.
Realize that strong emotions such as excitement or anger can also affect your blood sugar. While you may be elated at having bagged the big buck, whooping and hollering while jumping around may mean you should check the blood sugar levels. You may want to carry a watch or cell phone that has alarms to remind you when to take medications or check your blood sugar so that you don’t forget when things get exciting.
Diabetics are more likely to have heart problems and strokes than those without diabetes. If you are feeling bad or strange and your blood sugar is within range, if you are having chest pain, numbness, blurry vision or speech problems you should seek medical help.
Always keep important medical gear and medications in waterproof containers when hunting. You may fall into water or your stuff may fall into water without you. You can use Ziploc bags in a pinch but sporting goods stores sell inexpensive water proof containers that will work even better.
You may need to purchase a new hunting jacket with additional pockets for your medical gear or even a fanny pack but don’t let that stop you from enjoying a sport you love. With some common sense and attention to monitoring your sugar levels a diabetic can enjoy hunting and bring home some lean healthy meat.
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