The summer heat can be challenging for regular people, but it is especially challenging for people with diabetes or other chronic diseases like hypertension and heart disease. Some of the medications for treating these conditions may make it harder to tolerate the heat or contain diuretics that can cause fluids to be lost even if you are unaware of it.
Here are some tips for surviving the summer heat:
1. Stay hydrated. Dehydration can occur on hot summer days even if you don’t have diabetes or another chronic disease. When your sugar is out of control, this can occur even easier — especially if your sugar is high and you are urinating more than normal. To prevent dehydration, drink water or other caffeine-free fluids like lemonade to replace fluids lost in sweat and urine. Limit use of alcohol, as alcohol is a diuretic and can cause fluid loss to be more severe.
2. Watch for signs of heat exhaustion. Working or exercising outside in the heat can lead to heat exhaustion if you are not careful. People with diabetes and other chronic illnesses are more susceptible to overheating. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include: feeling dizzy or fainting; excessive sweating; muscle cramps; skin that feels cool or clammy; headache; rapid heart rate and/or nausea. If you experience any of these symptoms, move to a cooler environment and drink fluids like water. Loosen or remove excess clothing. You can also take a cool shower or wipe your skin with a cool cloth. If symptoms persist, seek medical attention.
3. Exercise in air conditioning when it is too hot outside. If the heat exceeds 85 degrees, you should exercise inside where it is cooler. You can also exercise early in the morning or later in the evening when temperatures are more moderate to avoid the heat in the middle of the day.
4. Check your sugar frequently, at least twice a day or more often if you are taking insulin or not feeling well. High sugar can cause increased urination that can lead to dehydration. It is also a good way to know if your insulin has gone bad or if your pump is not functioning properly.
5. Keep your insulin in a cool place like the refrigerator or in a cooler. Insulin is a protein like an egg. If you leave it in the heat, it will cook. And if you leave it out in a cold car in the winter, it will freeze. Either of these situations will cause your insulin to spoil and no longer be effective. If you are using a clear insulin it should remain clear and if your insulin is cloudy it should not develop clumps or frost on the glass. Your meter and strips will also malfunction if left out in the heat.
6. If you are a pump user, excessive sweating can be an issue and you may need to use a product like Skin-Prep or a spray of antiperspirant under your pump infusion set to keep it attached. If you are going to be out in the heat for an extended period, you will need to protect the insulin in your pump by covering it or with a pouch that has a small cool pack in it. You can also disconnect your pump for up to an hour. If you stay disconnected from your pump for longer periods of time, you will need to adjust your infusion rate when reconnecting to allow for missed insulin doses.
7. Use general summer common sense measures. Use sunscreen and drink plenty of fluids like water or lemonade and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. Get out of the sun periodically and find a shady spot to rest in for a while.
Have a safe and fun summer and remember to keep hydrated and protect yourself from the summer heat.