How To Manage Diabetes in Summer
As we head into summer and the mercury starts to rise, it’s a good idea to remind ourselves of some sun safety tips. The heat can adversely affect people living with diabetes in a couple of ways but, with a bit of preparation, you can enjoy the season just as much as anyone else.
Hot weather and blood glucose levels
Blood glucose levels can be affected by a number of things including stress, physical activity, alcohol and carbohydrates, but the weather may also have an impact. Some people find in hot weather their levels go up, and some find their levels go down.
On days when you are really feeling the heat, make sure you test your blood glucose levels more frequently, rest when you need to, and drink plenty of water.
Hypos in Summer
While heat can spike your blood glucose levels, a high body temperature can also lower your blood glucose levels. This is because the heat causes your blood vessels to expand, and this means insulin is absorbed at a faster rate. So if you use insulin for your diabetes, be aware of how your body is reacting to the heat, especially if you are exercising, because you could be at risk of hypoglycemia.
It’s easy to dismiss hypo symptoms in the summer because you may think it’s just the heat making you feel a bit funny, so it’s important to check your blood glucose levels regularly and keep hypo treatments on hand.
Sunburn and Diabetes
Sun and heat can both cause stress on your body and when your stress levels rise so does your blood glucose level. If you get sunburn on top, this can trigger the release of stress hormones and increase your blood glucose levels even more! Try and stay out of the sun during the hottest parts of the day and make sure your wear waterproof sunscreen, a long-sleeved top, a hat, and sunglasses with sunglasses with a UV400 label.
Footcare in Summer for Diabetes
Sandals, thongs and going barefoot expose your feet to possible injuries that can ruin your summer. The answer is to wear shoes that cover your feet, and check your feet carefully at the end of the day. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your feet too. Your feet may be even more prone to dry skin and cracking in the summer, so keep them moisturised with specialist products.
How to Keep Your Diabetes Medication Cool
To keep your medication working properly, and blood test strips reading correctly, you should store your medication, insulin and strips at a room temperature between 4-25°C. During the very hot months of summer room temperatures can be well above 25°C. To make sure your medications don’t get too hot make sure you have a small cooler pack with an ice brick wrapped in a tea towel. Or buy a cooling wallet or case to ensure you keep your supplies safe.
If your blood glucose levels are consistently higher than expected it is worth considering if your insulin could have been damaged by the heat. Insulin may not work as well if it has been exposed to the heat. Bright sunlight may turn your insulin brownish in colour. Avoid exposing your insulin to high temps and do not use if it is brown.
Never leave your blood test strips or medication in the car because temperatures climb very quickly and will affect how they work. If you are concerned your test strips have been exposed to extreme temperatures, throw them away and use a new batch.
Diabetes Pumps and Swimming
Some pumps are waterproof but if you are going ocean swimming it is best to disconnect your pump so it doesn’t accidently fall off. You may be able to disconnect your pump for an hour but keep in mind that the heat and how much you are exercising can impact your blood glucose levels. Some people find the exercise balances out being disconnected from your pump, but the only way you can know is by regular monitoring.
When it’s hot and you are sweating more than usual, the cannula site may dislodge. Try inserting the cannula where you don’t sweat as much and secure with extra sticking plaster, or a transparent dressing over the top. It’s a good idea to carry a spare infusion set in case the cannula dislodges. You can also buy a skin prep that helps make skin tacky so the cannula sticks better. In extreme temperatures it is advisable to change the reservoir more often as the heat will affect the quality of the insulin.
The summer is all about having fun and enjoying time with friends and family. It’s been a difficult couple of years so just keep in mind these few precautions, stay hydrated, slip, slop, slap - and ENJOY!