Summertime, and the living is...well, hot and humid, which can pose several challenges for people with diabetes. The good news is, with a few relatively simple precautions, you can enjoy all that the warm weather has to offer.
- Check blood sugar levels often.
Changes in activity and heat levels can alter how fast your body absorbs insulin and, therefore, may affect your medication needs.
- Keep medications and supplies cool.
Insulin, oral diabetes meds, test strips and blood glucose meters should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place—never in the glove compartment, trunk or in direct sunlight. Insulin must be kept cold, but it also cannot be allowed to freeze.
Tip! Place insulin in a waterproof zip-close bag, wrap it in a towel to avoid direct contact with ice packs and store it in a small cooler.
- Drink often.
Excessive sweating during hot, humid summer days or while exercising can cause dehydration—which can lead to an increase in blood sugar. Even worse, excess blood sugar can make you urinate more often, which further dehydrates you. To prevent this dangerous cycle, most experts advise drinking eight 8-oz. glasses of water or other fluids (nonalcoholic and non-caffeinated) a day, and even more if you’re active.
- Be snack savvy.
When you’re on the go, carry light bites, such as oranges, nuts, graham crackers, water-packed tuna, low-fat string cheese and/or dried apricots or raisins. You’ll be glad you did if your blood sugar dips or an unexpected problem arises—say, for example, you’re flying and the airline doesn’t serve a meal.
- Limit alcohol.
Alcoholic beverages are actually diuretic, meaning they cause you to lose more body fluid and further contribute to dehydration. Unless your doctor advises otherwise, stick to just one 5-oz. alcoholic beverage for women and two for men per day. Also, don’t drink on an empty stomach—it can cause blood sugar to drop.
- Put on sunglasses daily.
Good shades (choose lenses that say on the label that they block 99%-100% of both UVA and UVB rays) protect your eyes from UV rays that can contribute to cataracts, a vision problem people with diabetes are two to five times more likely to develop. People with diabetes are also more likely to develop cataracts at a younger age.
- Be alert to a common danger.
Because nerve damage due to diabetes can keep sweat glands from working properly, people with diabetes are at a greater risk for heat exhaustion, signs of which include heavy sweating, extreme weakness, dizziness and/or confusion, nausea, clammy moist skin, pale or flushed complexion, muscle cramps, elevated body temperature and/or fast and shallow breathing. If you experience any of these, move to an air-conditioned space, drink plenty of cool fluids and seek immediate medical attention. And if you’re out in the heat, be sure to test your blood sugar more frequently.