Having diabetes affects your body’s ability to handle hot, humid weather, and steamy temperatures can degrade diabetes supplies. But all of this is manageable. You can enjoy the summer and keep your blood sugar under control. First, be aware that temperatures well below 90 to 100 degrees F can cause heat-related problems. A survey done by the Mayo Clinic revealed many people with diabetes are unaware of this.
Blood Sugar and Hot Weather
Heat-related illness can occur starting at 80 degrees F with 40 percent humidity. Although this temperature is not extreme, the higher humidity slows the evaporation of sweat, and your body is less able to cool itself. Dehydration is a concern for everyone in warm weather, but the risk increases when blood sugar levels are high. Your kidneys will work to excrete the excess glucose as urine, but this filtering process also removes water from your body. If the water is not replenished, your body will “steal” it from fluids such as tears and saliva, leaving you dry-eyed and thirsty. Some individuals are susceptible to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) in hot weather because of fluctuations in their metabolism. It is important to acknowledge symptoms of hypoglycemia, such as sweating and tiredness, and not to assume they are owed to the summer temperatures.
Six Ways to Protect Yourself
If you notice higher or lower glucose levels during warm weather, let your healthcare team know and consider the following guidelines for a fun and safe summer.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids at regular intervals throughout the day. Drink primarily water or other caffeine-free, sugar-free liquids. Avoid dehydrating alcoholic beverages. If your doctor has limited your liquid intake, ask how best to remain hydrated in hot weather.
- In warm environments, check your glucose at least four times per day; check it every one to two hours if you are more active than usual or are driving for long stretches.
- Know the early signs of dehydration: thirst, headache, dry mouth, dry eyes, tiredness, dizziness and dark yellow urine.
- Plan physical activities or exercise for the cooler morning and evening hours; consider exercising in air conditioning when the heat is intense.
- Wear light-colored, light-weight, loose-fitting clothing and always carry identification indicating you have diabetes; when out alone, have a cellphone with you or tell someone your route/destination.
- Use sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses and hats, and protect your feet from hot or rough surfaces.
How to Protect Your Supplies
Carry your diabetes supplies, a means of hydration, and a glucose source with you wherever you go this summer. Use insulated cases or coolers to keep your insulin as close to normal temperature as possible. However, do not put insulin directly on ice since it loses potency after freezing. Over-heating and humidity can also affect the effectiveness of glucose meters and strips, oral medications and insulin pumps. All supplies should be kept in tightly-closed containers and/or out of direct sunlight. If you are active in hot weather, ask your healthcare team if a protective pouch is advisable for your pump.