Beating the Heat With Diabetes: Safety Tips for Sweltering Summer Days

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Stephanie M. McPherson

The sun blazed across much of the eastern United States on the 2012 Summer Solstice

First day of summer and us East Coasters are having a heat wave. But it’s not just the East coast that is bearing the brunt of the sun’s force. Temperatures are supposed to reach the high 90s for the next few days in a multitude of places. So while you’re setting out for the beach or hiking the hills or despairing of your lack of air conditioning, don’t forget how the heat can affect your diabetes and diabetes supplies.

First thing—keep hydrated!! The heat causes you to sweat more and dehydration will raise your blood glucose levels. Water is your best fluid replacement. All good news—no calories, no carbohydrate, and pure hydration. If you do choose fluids with calories, be sure to account for the carbs.

Check the sensation: The heat can fool you into thinking your low. Sweating, flushing, rapid heartbeat these are symptoms of hypoglycemia but they can also be a consequence of the heat. Before you take extra carb you may not need, check your blood glucose. A full glass of water and getting out of the heat may be the answer.

Keep your footwear on: It may be delicious wiggling your toes in the toasty, sun-baked sand, but if you have neuropathy or vascular problems, shoes on. Neuropathy can make it difficult for you to feel if your feet are getting burned. Ditto walking poorly shod on hot pavement. Unnoticed cuts and sores can let bacteria in, leading to a nasty infection.

Chill those supplies: meter strips are sensitive to the heat and humidity. Keep them in a secure place (avoid your car glove compartment). Insulin is denatured by excess heat and direct sunlight. Store your supplies in a cook pack if you are going to be in the heat for an extended period. If you have had your insulin out in the sun and notice your blood glucose numbers are higher than usual, it may be time for a new vial or pen.

Take a pump vacation: going to the beach perhaps? The insulin in your pump is just as sensitive to the heat as insulin in a vial. This may be the time to leave the pump at home and carry a pen or vial and syringe in a cool pack.

So be prepared and when you’re cursing the heat, and keep thinking about all the snow you’re not shoveling.

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