Last week, I wrote about traveling when you have diabetes (“Summertime…And the Traveling Is Easy!”). In keeping with the whole summertime/vacation theme, I thought I’d write about some tips on managing diabetes when it’s hot.
When it comes to staying cool and safe in the summer, it helps to keep a few things in mind. Much of this will seem like good, common sense. However, some of the tips pertain directly to people with diabetes, so please take a few minutes to read through the list!
Insulin. If you take insulin, you probably know that it won’t work the way it should if it’s been exposed to very hot or very cold temperatures or if it’s been put in direct sunlight (in fact, you should always discard insulin that has been exposed to extreme temperatures or to sunlight). Don’t keep insulin in your car during hot (or cold) months. Keep unopened insulin vials or insulin pens in the refrigerator. If no refrigerator is available, store them at room temperature. It may help to use an insulated insulin container when you travel or when you’re enjoying the outdoors. By the way, the above advice applies to exenatide (brand name Byetta) and pramlintide (Symlin), as well.
Diabetes pills. Keep pills and all medicines out of the heat. In addition, pills can lose their potency if kept in moist, humid places, such as the bathroom or the kitchen, so keep them in a cool, dry area.
Blood glucose meters and other diabetes supplies. Heat and humidity can affect how your meter and your test strips work, so, as with your medicines, don’t leave your meter in a hot car or on your beach towel in the sun, for example. In fact, plan on keeping all of your diabetes supplies out of the heat and out of the sun.
Insulin pumps. Insulin pumps are generally protected from heat by their housing units. However, if you plan on visiting the desert, for example, you might consider using a protective pouch that contains a gel-based cooling pack. Another issue you may face is the impact of perspiration on the adhesive backing of your infusion set. Moisture can cause the infusion set to loosen or separate from the skin. There are several skin-barrier preparations you can try. Talk to your diabetes educator about various options.
Blood glucose monitoring. It’s a good idea to check your blood glucose levels more often than you usually do when it’s hot out, especially if you tend to be more active in the warmer weather. Aim to check at least four times a day.
Fluids. Again, it’s common sense that most people need to drink more fluids when it’s hot out to avoid dehydration. If you are very active and/or tend to sweat a lot, you’ll need to drink plenty of water or other low-carb/sugar-free beverages during the day. It’s okay to drink some caffeinated beverages, but it’s best to alternate these with caffeine-free drinks. Seek medical help if you feel overheated, dizzy, or have difficulty breathing.
Foot care. As tempting as it can be to walk around barefoot during the summer, you run the risk of injuring your feet. Hot tar, broken glass, and creatures of the sea are all culprits. Wear well-fitting shoes or sandals (that stay on your feet!). Treat cuts, sores or blisters promptly.
Sunscreen. If you’ll be outdoors at all, apply a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 (even on cloudy days). Reapply sunscreen if you’ve been swimming or have perspired a lot. Don’t forget to use a lip balm with sunscreen, as well. And it’s a good idea to wear a hat and sunglasses, too!
Have fun in the sun this summer!