The summer heat requires greater care for diabetes medications and supplies. High temperatures can also change the way your body uses insulin. The following tips will help you keep your cool, and your diabetes medications and supplies safe.
1. Drink plenty of water.
Even if you’re not thirsty, you should drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
People with diabetes get dehydrated (lose too much water from their bodies) more quickly. Not drinking enough liquids can cause your blood glucose – also called blood sugar levels to rise.
“Becoming dehydrated and not replacing that water can lead to high blood sugar. When fluids leave your body, your blood becomes more concentrated with glucose,” says Brooklyn-based Dacia Bryant, Founder and Chief Health Officer at A ONE C LifeBox, a digital healthcare engagement company that equips Black and Hispanic people with the tools to manage their diabetes more effectively.
High blood glucose can make you urinate more, causing dehydration. Diuretics – water pills, can also cause dehydration. Avoid alcohol and drinks with caffeine, like coffee and energy or sports drinks. They can also lead to water loss and spike your blood glucose levels.
2. Adjust insulin as needed.
High temperatures can change how your body uses insulin. You may need to test your blood glucose more often and adjust your insulin dose and what you eat and drink.
Bryant says, “Dehydration also leads to a decrease in blood flow supplied to the skin where insulin is injected. Your insulin dose may not be fully absorbed, and blood glucose can remain high.”
Ask your health care provider or diabetes educator if you would like help making insulin adjustments during the hot summer heat.
3. Test your blood glucose levels frequently.
Check your blood glucose more often to make sure it’s in your target range. It’s especially important to
recognize the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia – low blood sugar, and treat it as soon as possible. Also, check your blood glucose before, during, and after you’re active. You may need to change how much insulin you use.
4. Take some snacks with you.
Glucose gels, tablets, candy, and regular soft drinks can relieve symptoms of low blood sugar. Snacks such as breakfast bars, cheese crackers, granola bars, and trail mix can be eaten when meals are missed or delayed. Keep snacks, glucose gel, or tablets with you.
5. Protect your medication and supplies.
Bryant suggests using a cool storage pouch for insulin.
“I often recommend packing a cooler like the Frio Insulin Cooling Case or a Medicool pouch. These cool storage pouches will protect insulin and other injectables from extreme heat not only during hot summer months but also throughout the year if you travel to warm climates where air conditioning may be limited, and power loss is common,” says Bryant.
Heat can also damage your blood sugar monitor, insulin pump, and other diabetes equipment. Don’t leave them in a hot car, by a pool, in direct sunlight, or on the beach. The same goes for supplies such as test strips.
6. Avoid tanning and sunburn.
Any increase in skin pigment as a result of tanning is a sign of damage.
Ultraviolet radiation from the sun can cause dry skin, wrinkles and dark spots. People with diabetes tend to have dry skin, increasing the risk of damage from the sun’s rays.
Dry skin can lead to cracking and peeling, which allows bacteria to enter the body and cause infection. Wear sunscreen and a hat when you’re outside. Sunburn can raise your blood sugar levels.
7. Make a plan in case you lose power.
People with diabetes face extra challenges if a strong storm knocks out the power or they have to seek shelter away from home.
Plan how you’ll handle your insulin and other medications that require refrigeration. Also, be prepared by packing an emergency ready-to-go bag (a supply kit you can grab quickly if you need to leave your home).
8. Keep diabetes supplies cool.
Finally, always have an ice pack, cool storage pouch, or similar item for your diabetes supplies available, even at home. You never know when electricity might go out in a summer storm. (Source: BlackDoctor.org by Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, national speaker, and author of The African American Guide to Living Well with Diabetes.)