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Tips for managing diabetes during summer heat

Lankenau Medical Center June 8, 2015 General Wellness

woman testing blood sugar pool sideSummer’s surprise thunderstorms and hot, humid days can take anyone by surprise but, for patients with diabetes, it’s important to take extra precautions to be prepared for the season’s extreme weather conditions.

“Diabetes makes it more difficult for your body to handle heat and humidity and, unfortunately, many patients don’t realize just how much it can affect them,” explains Dina Green, MD, endocrinologist with Main Line Endocrinology at Lankenau Medical Center.

While it’s not uncommon to experience dehydration during the summer months, patients with diabetes are already at a high risk for dehydration due to risk factors like high blood sugar and certain diabetes medications. Coupled with warm, dry weather, their risk of dehydration is higher than that of someone without diabetes, and the results can potentially be dangerous.

Still, few patients with diabetes are willing to sit inside and let the summer pass them by, even if there is a heat wave. And, fortunately, you don’t have to.

“Just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean you have to let diabetes sideline you for the summer, but you will need to take extra precautions to ensure you’re safe and healthy,” Dr. Green says.

Stay indoors

Of course, it’s best to stay indoors whenever you can.

“Summer is a great time to be outdoors, but any time you can be indoors as opposed to outdoors is safer,” says Dr. Green. “If you do have to be outside, try and limit your time there to early in the morning or later at night, when the temperature isn’t as high.”

If you are leaving the house, make sure your destination is air-conditioned or has a fan to keep you cool.

Fill up on fluids

This summer, remember to hydrate! Avoid sugary or sweetened beverages and sports drinks and opt for water to prevent dehydration. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to start drinking, either, says Dr. Green.

“By the time you start noticing you’re thirsty, you may already be dehydrated,” she says. “To prevent that, start drinking water even if you’re not thirsty yet. Pour yourself a glass in the morning or right before you’re ready to go outside for the day.”

Bring your medication on the road

Whenever you leave the house, whether it’s for a quick trip or a few days, make sure you have all necessary medication, a glucose meter, and glucose test strips with you. You may also need to travel with insulin or insulin pumps.

Pay special attention to making sure this equipment is stored at the appropriate temperature, too. Insulin can be kept at room temperature but if you are traveling in a warm car keep insulin in a cooler. All diabetes related equipment, medications, and glucose testing strips should also be kept out of the direct sun and hot cars.

“Patients with diabetes can easily travel with their equipment. If you’re going to be traveling with yours or you don’t know how to transport it, your endocrinologist can help you understand what you need and how to properly store it,” says Dr. Green.

Pack a snack

If you do have to be on the road, don’t forget to pack yourself a snack and keep glucose tablets with you at all times in case your blood sugar drops. Keep an eye out for signs of low blood sugar, like hunger, shakiness, perspiration, dizziness, light-headedness, and confusion.

Wear light, loose-fitting clothing

If you’ll be outside during the day, opt for clothing that’s light and loose-fitting to provide for ventilation. You’ll keep your body cool, and help ward off the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Lankenau Medical Center was named one of the best hospitals in the nation and in the Philadelphia region for diabetes and endocrinology by U.S. News & World Report for 2014–15. Visit our website to learn more about our diabetes management services.