If you or a loved one have either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, you should be aware that extreme summer heat can be dangerous because of its effect on blood glucose levels. Heat combined with moderate to high levels of activity can cause profuse sweating and lead to dehydration. In turn, dehydration may lead to a rise in glucose levels. People with diabetes feel the heat more than people who don’t have diabetes, and here are the reasons why:
- Diabetics may have damaged blood vessels and nerves. This can affect sweat glands, so the body is unable to cool itself effectively. Medical emergencies, such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion, may follow.
- Individuals with diabetes become dehydrated quite quickly in high heat. Not drinking sufficient liquids can cause a rise in blood glucose. High levels of blood glucose lead to more urination, which, in turn, leads to dehydration.
- High temperatures affect how the body uses insulin. Therefore, if you are diabetic and out and about in the summer, it’s advisable to test your blood glucose levels more often and make adjustments to your insulin dose and what you are eating and drinking.
Summer Heat and Diabetes – The Dangers of High Humidity
Even if it doesn’t seem to be very hot outside, heat combined with high humidity can still be dangerous. When sweat dries on the skin, it removes heat and cools you down. It’s more difficult to remain cool in high humidity conditions because perspiration is not able to evaporate.
How to Enjoy the Summer if You Have Diabetes
- Keep an eye on the heat index when temperatures soar. Take precautions to stay cool when the index reaches 80°F (26°C) in the shade with 40% humidity or higher. Keep in mind that in full sunlight, the temperature can be up to 15°F higher. This means that a heat index of 90°F (32°C) with high humidity may feel like 105°F (40°C) in unshaded conditions.
- Drink lots of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeinated drinks such as coffee and energy/sports drinks. These beverages can cause your body to lose water leading to a spike in your blood glucose levels.
- Wear clothing that is lightweight, loose-fitting, and light-colored.
- Apply sunscreen and wear a hat. Sunburn can raise your blood sugar levels.
- Protect your feet – don’t go barefoot.
- Physical activity is generally associated with a reduced need for insulin. However, a reduction in insulin may increase the danger of low blood glucose. Therefore, in high summer temperatures, you are at risk for both low and high blood glucose levels.
- Before, during, and following any outdoor activity, check your blood glucose levels. It’s possible that you may need to adjust the amount of insulin you use. Talk to your doctor if you need help in changing your dosage.
Final Thoughts on Summer Heat and Diabetes
If you or a family member have diabetes, the key to safety in the high heat of summer is vigilance. Blood glucose levels should be checked regularly and often, and emergency treatment should be sought if necessary.
Help For Your Diabetic Family Member in Columbia, South Carolina
Caring Healthcare specializes in caring for individuals with special health care needs associated with conditions such as diabetes. So, if you need in-home help caring for a loved one with diabetes, don’t hesitate to contact us.