Summer heat is bearing down in many areas and for anyone with diabetes, heat can take a toll. You may not necessarily experience any physical discomfort when temperatures soar but be aware that having diabetes - and taking the medications to manage it – can have an increased risk when things get steamy. To make sure you know how to beat the heat when you have diabetes, here’s what you need to know on how to handle hot weather to avoid any unexpected consequences affecting your diabetes.
1. When your body temperature rises, your blood sugar levels do the opposite – they lower. Checking your blood sugars more often during hot weather can help to know what your numbers are doing.
2. Heat and humidity can not only damage insulin, but also other medications and test strips. Temperatures above 80 degrees F and over 40 percent humidity will pose the biggest threat by degrading your supplies and compromising how well they work. Do not store medications or supplies in direct sunlight or in the car. Find a cool, dark place but avoid the freezer. Store them in a cooler but do not put them in direct contact with ice.
3. Dehydration from sweating can raise blood sugar and can lead to heat exhaustion. When glucose levels are high this leads to frequent urination increasing the risk for dehydration. Increase your intake of water during hot spells and learn to check yourself for dehydration by pinching up some skin on your arm and letting it go. It should snap right back into place. If it slowly retreats, you are getting dehydrated. Avoid drinking alcohol or caffeine in extremely hot weather as they are dehydrating.
4. Wearing sandals, flip-flops, or going barefoot is tempting in hot weather. But over-exposing your feet runs the risk of injury, including burns from walking on a hot sidewalk. Always wear shoes and check your feet including the bottoms of your feet at the end of the day.
5. Having diabetes puts you at a greater risk of heat exhaustion. Diabetes can affect the ability to sweat and if you fail to sweat, you can’t stay cool. Know the signs of heat exhaustion to avoid it becoming worse.
6. Keep as cool as possible. Wear light-colored, light-weight clothes and stay out of direct sunlight.
7. Exercise is important year round but when it is hot outdoors, it is important to keep cool. Try to do exercise in the early or later hours of the day when temperature are cooler.
8. If traveling in the heat, make sure to stop and check your blood sugar regularly.
9. Sunburn can raise blood sugar. Always wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunscreen and sunglasses while out in the sun.
10. When your skin is warm it will absorb insulin faster. Skin that is dehydrated will absorb insulin more slowly. The closer you keep your injection site to normal temperature and hydration, the better.