Summer is almost here – the season of sunshine, BBQs, picnics, and splashing around in the water. If you are caring for someone with diabetes, don’t miss a beat (or the beach!) with these tips for managing diabetes in the summer.
Summertime means lighter meals with fresh fruits and vegetables. Good weather enables a diabetic person to be more active, resulting in improved blood sugar levels. However, the summer heat may adversely affect those with diabetes. Diabetes complications (e.g., nerve damage) can impair the ability of sweat glands to keep the person cool. High blood sugar levels combined with certain medications may make dehydration more likely, and the heat can affect insulin needs. However, your diabetic loved one can still enjoy the season with the following advice.
Whether heading out to the local beach, planning a more extended getaway, or just spending time outside in the hot sun, your diabetes supplies and meds need a little extra thought.
Keep Everything Cool
Extreme temperatures are an enemy to test strips, blood sugar monitors, and insulin pumps. Moreover, insulin and other diabetes meds can degrade in extreme heat. So don’t store things in your car. Stash meds in a cooler and wrap insulin in a towel, so it’s not directly touching gel packs or ice. Consider a special cooling case for insulin.
Carry On What You Need
Diabetes equipment, supplies, and medications can be carried onboard after being screened. Keep them separate for easier screening. You aren’t required to have prescriptions with you, but if these are handy, it’s more likely you’ll just sail through security.
Managing diabetes in the summer means bringing at least an extra week of testing supplies and medications in case of travel delays or luggage mishaps.
Drinking plenty of fluids keeps blood sugar levels in check. Remember that sports drinks come with as much sugar as soda.
More activity than usual may create hunger and cause low blood sugar. Bringing along good snack options and check blood sugar before and after exercise.
If your loved one feels weak, headachy, and shaky, check blood sugar. Symptoms of heat exhaustion and dehydration are similar and can mimic those of low blood sugar. If blood sugar tests normal, these symptoms mean the person needs to cool down in the shade and drink water. If blood sugar tests low, adhere to the “15/15” rule – munch on 15 grams of carbs (four dried apricots, half a large banana, fast-acting glucose tabs), then wait 15 minutes before rechecking.
Protect Your Skin
Sunburn results in pain and stress, which can increase blood sugar. What’s more, if the person with diabetes also has neuropathy, they may not feel the sun’s burning effect until it’s too late. Schedule full-sun activities before 10 a.m. or after 2 p.m. to avoid peak rays.
For insulin, keep the skin cool at the injection site. Heat increases the flow of blood to the skin, so insulin gets into the circulatory system faster and drives glucose rapidly into cells. If this happens, your loved one may experience an unexpected low.
Dress To Stay Cool From Head to Toe
- Buy wraparound sunglasses that block 99-100 percent of UV light.
- Clothing should be loose, light-colored, and lightweight to avoid overheating.
- Supportive, enclosed footwear avoids sunburnt feet, cuts, and scrapes.