When summer rolls around, people with diabetes like to enjoy the sunshine and warm weather like anyone else. But simultaneously managing diabetes and heat takes a little extra preparation during heatwaves and in hot climates.
High temperatures can affect everything from the way your body cools itself to the way insulin works in your body, making it especially important for people with diabetes to keep an eye on the rising thermostat.
Diabetes and heat
Whether you have type 1 or type 2, people with diabetes tend to get a little hotter than others. There are a few reasons for this:
- In high heat, your body changes the way it uses insulin. Without frequent blood sugar checks and changing your dose to compensate, extended periods in high temperatures can disrupt the way you manage blood glucose.
- Diabetes complications, like diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage caused by high blood sugar), can be exacerbated. Diabetic neuropathy can hinder your sweat glands’ ability to cool your body, causing heat strokes or heat exhaustion.
- People with diabetes can become dehydrated more easily, especially if they have high blood sugar. At the same time, dehydration can raise your blood sugar. It’s possible to spiral into a cycle in which becoming dehydrated raises your blood sugar, leading to even more rapid dehydration.
Check the heat index
It’s not just about the temperature. Both heat and humidity can affect people with diabetes in negative ways if they aren’t prepared. When heat mixes with high humidity, it’s much harder to keep your body cool.
When you sweat, your body releases moisture so the surface of your skin is cooled down when air passes over it and the moisture evaporates. In high humidity, however, it’s harder for sweat to evaporate since there is already so much moisture in the air.
That’s why people with diabetes should base their preparations for hot weather on the heat index — a measurement that tracks both heat and humidity. On especially hot days, weather reports and apps usually provide the heat index with forecasts. (You can also determine the heat index if you know the temperature and humidity using this chart from the National Weather Service.)
The heat index can change depending on a location’s exposure to sunlight, as well. Consider sitting in the shade on hot days as the heat index can be several degrees higher in direct sunlight than in the shade.
Managing diabetes and heat
The truth is, everyone needs to watch out for their health in hot weather. People with diabetes simply need to adjust their normal management practices to compensate. Here are some tips to avoid complications from dealing with both diabetes and heat:
- Keep hydrated throughout the day. If your urine is yellowish-brown, you need to drink more water as soon as you can. Drink enough water so that your urine is slightly yellow but not transparent. You can also consider drinking unsweetened, caffeine-free beverages if you are looking for an option instead of water.
- Check your blood sugar more often. Continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) like Medtronic’s Guardian™ Connect CGM can help you monitor your blood sugar throughout the day. But, even if you don’t use a CGM, making sure to check blood sugar both before and after activity in the sun can ensure you have the information you need to modify your insulin dose, if necessary.
- Always wear sunscreen. Did you know that people with diabetes can experience raised blood sugar levels if they get a sunburn? Don’t let it happen to you. Wear sunscreen with SPF 30 or above.
- Be aware of your heat levels, even indoors. On days with an especially high heat index, a fan won’t be enough to cool you down. If you’re too hot even inside, find somewhere with an air conditioner to hide out until the temperature goes down.
Keeping yourself in good physical condition and staying on track with your medications can give you enough of a buffer in your blood glucose management to prevent serious complications on a hot day. If you’re looking to get plenty of sunshine over the summer, be prepared!
Important Safety Information: Guardian™ Connect CGM System
The Guardian™ Connect system requires a prescription and is indicated for continuous or periodic monitoring of glucose levels in the interstitial fluid under the skin, in patients (14 to 75 years of age) with diabetes mellitus. The system is intended to complement, not replace, information obtained from standard blood glucose monitoring devices, and is not recommended for people who are unwilling or unable to perform a minimum of two meter blood glucose tests per day, or for people who are unable or unwilling to maintain contact with their healthcare professional. The system requires a functioning mobile electronic device with correct settings in place for accurate operation. A non-functioning mobile device or incorrect settings may prevent the app from issuing alerts. Missing alerts may result in undetected low and high glucose levels. For complete details of the system and its components, including warnings, contraindications, and precautions, please consult the user guide at http://www.medtronicdiabetes.com/support/download-library/user- guides and www.medtronicdiabetes.com/importantsafetyinformation.
Tags: managing diabetes
, type 1 diabetes