Getting Fired Up for the Fourth (of July)

July is here, and this year, the Fourth falls in the middle of the week. Even if you have to go back to work the next day, chances are you’ll be celebrating our nation’s birthday with fireworks, parades, cookouts, and perhaps a bit of alcohol.

Any time a holiday rolls around, whether it’s Christmas, New Year’s, or the Fourth of July, it’s a good idea to gear up and have a game plan for “events” that may impact your diabetes. Successfully managing diabetes at any time involves being one step ahead of the game as much as possible, and this week’s holiday is no exception. Here are some tips to consider so that you can fully enjoy the upcoming festivities.

Stay hydrated. The past few days in the Boston area have been in the 90’s, and it looks like the hot spell will continue for most of the week ahead. If you’re going to be outdoors at a parade, fireworks, a cookout, or the beach, be sure to drink plenty of fluids.


This seems like common sense, but these are just words to the wise, as people with diabetes may be more likely to become dehydrated than people without. Part of this has to do with the extent of your diabetes control: High blood glucose levels can make you more susceptible to becoming dehydrated, and the hot weather on top of that certainly doesn’t help.

While there are no hard and fast rules for how much liquid you need to drink, aiming for anywhere from 8 to 13 cups of fluid each day is a good rule of thumb (and more if you’re exercising, working in the hot weather, or drinking alcohol). Watch out for signs of dehydration, especially if you’re melting on the sidelines of a parade: dizziness, lightheadedness, fatigue, thirst, confusion, and palpitations are all symptoms. Best to avoid these in the first place and keep a water bottle nearby at all times.

Wear sunscreen. Slathering on the sunscreen before heading for the outdoors is good advice for all of us. The FDA issued new guidelines last year that encourage manufacturers to use ingredients that protect against both UVA and UVB rays, as well as banning the terms “waterproof,” “sweatproof,” and “sunblock.” To find a list of recommended sunscreens, check out the Environmental Working Group’s list here[1].

Be aware, too, that taking certain medicines can cause photosensitivity reactions, which can lead to a host of skin problems, including a risk for sunburn. Glyburide, glipizide, diuretics, some antibiotics, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as ibuprofen) increase your risk. Ask your pharmacist if any of the medicines that you take are likely to cause photosensitivity.

Keep your meter handy. You might want to take a holiday from your diabetes, but resist the temptation. Checking your blood glucose more often than you usually do on a holiday is a smart idea. High or low blood glucose levels can put a damper on the fun, and you’re more likely to have “ups and downs” on special occasions, thanks to overeating, more activity than usual, alcohol, hot weather, and a change in your usual schedule. Keep your meter and test strips (along with your insulin, if you take it) out of the sun and in a cool, shady spot.

Gauge your plate. Overindulging every now and then is OK, and it’s more likely to occur on a holiday. Go ahead and savor a burger and some potato salad, but at the same time, keep an eye on how much carbohydrate you eat.

Load up on salad and other vegetable dishes and plan ahead: If you really want a slice of that pie, skip the corn on the cob. If you’re going to a cookout or to a party, offer to bring a dish that’s healthful and reasonable in terms of carbohydrate and fat. Balancing your carbs, fitting in some protein and vegetables, and going easy on the fried foods can help you enjoy the day without soaring blood glucose levels and feeling overstuffed!

Watch the alcohol. It’s OK to raise a glass to Lady Liberty, but as the saying goes, everything in moderation. Drinking alcohol on an empty stomach (and in the hot weather) can increase your risk for low blood glucose if you take insulin or certain types of diabetes pills.

Aim for no more than two servings of alcohol per day if you’re a man, and no more than one serving if you’re a woman. Always eat something when you drink, too. You’re also more likely to become dehydrated when you drink alcohol, so be especially vigilant about drinking plenty of water or other sugar-free beverages.

Keep your food safe. No one wants to suffer with a food-borne illness. If you’re hosting a gathering, follow these tips for safe food handling: Keep utensils and surfaces clean (that means no juices from uncooked chicken or beef lying around); use separate plates for uncooked and cooked foods; use a thermometer to cook meat and chicken to a safe temperature; and keep cold foods cold — don’t let them sit out in the hot sun.

Get your activity in. Get your day off to a good start by exercising in the morning. It’s a good way to beat the heat, you’ll help your blood glucose levels stay at safe level during the day, and you may even find that you’re less likely to overeat, too.

Happy Fourth!

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Amy Campbell: Amy Campbell is the author of Staying Healthy with Diabetes: Nutrition and Meal Planning and a frequent contributor to Diabetes Self-Management and Diabetes & You. She has co-authored several books, including the The Joslin Guide to Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association’s 16 Myths of a “Diabetic Diet,” for which she received a Will Solimene Award of Excellence in Medical Communication and a National Health Information Award in 2000. Amy also developed menus for Fit Not Fat at Forty Plus and co-authored Eat Carbs, Lose Weight with fitness expert Denise Austin. Amy earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Simmons College and a master’s degree in nutrition education from Boston University. In addition to being a Registered Dietitian, she is a Certified Diabetes Educator and a member of the American Dietetic Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Amy was formerly a Diabetes and Nutrition Educator at Joslin Diabetes Center, where she was responsible for the development, implementation, and evaluation of disease management programs, including clinical guideline and educational material development, and the development, testing, and implementation of disease management applications. She is currently the Director of Clinical Education Content Development and Training at Good Measures. Amy has developed and conducted training sessions for various disease and case management programs and is a frequent presenter at disease management events.

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