8 Diabetes-Friendly Tips for Handling the Summer Heat

There’s a lot to love about summer—warm weather, long days and all that outdoor time with loved ones. Unfortunately, the season also poses risks, especially if you have diabetes. All that sun, heat and humidity can cause dehydration, skin problems, heat exhaustion and spoil your medication.There’s a lot to love about summer—warm weather, long days and all that outdoor time with loved ones. Unfortunately, the season also poses risks, especially if you have diabetes. All that sun, heat and humidity can cause dehydration, skin problems, heat exhaustion and spoil your medication.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

• Dizziness
• Excessive sweating
• Muscle cramps
• Headache
• Rapid heartbeat
• Nausea
• Skin problems
• Fluctuation in blood sugar levels

The heat being experienced in many parts of the nation these days is tough enough for the average person, but for the over 69 million Indians with diabetes, special precautions may be required. “People with chronic diseases like diabetes as well as people taking certain medications, including heart disease medications and diuretics, which are often used to treat complications of diabetes, are at increased risk of experiencing difficulties in the heat, even though they may not be aware of it,” says Dr. Manoj Chawla, Diabetologist, Director of United Diabetes Forum at Lina Diabetes Clinic.

Here are some tips for people with diabetes during these steamy summer days:

Drink Water

1)  Keep hydrated.

Dehydration, or the loss of body fluids, can happen on these very hot summer days whether you have diabetes or not. If you have diabetes, dehydration also can occur when blood glucose is not under control. When blood glucose is elevated, this can lead to an increase in the body’s excretion of urine. To prevent dehydration drink plenty of caffeine-free fluids such as water, buttermilk or sugar-free iced tea and lemonade. Limit your intake of alcohol.


2) Watch for signs of heat exhaustion. (Especially if you are working or exercising outdoors)

People with diabetes and other chronic diseases like heart disease are more susceptible to overheating. Symptoms include: feeling dizzy or fainting; sweating excessively; muscle cramps; skin that is cold or clammy; headaches; rapid heartbeat and/or nausea. If you experience any of these symptoms, move to a cooler environment, drink fluids like water, juice or sports drinks (based on your healthcare provider’s instructions) and seek medical attention.
Exercise in a cool place such as an air-conditioned gym, or early in the morning or later in the evening when temperatures may be more moderate.


3) Check blood glucose levels at least four times per day.

Check even more often if you are not feeling well. Remember that heat can cause blood glucose levels to fluctuate. Carry plenty of water and snacks.


4) Store your blood glucose meter, strips and insulin in a cool, dry place.


Do not store insulin in extreme temperatures. Never store insulin in the freezer, in direct sunlight, in the car or the car’s glove compartment. Examine your vials of insulin. Clear insulin (Regular, Humalog, Novolog, Apidra, Lantus, Levemir) should remain clear. NPH insulin should not have any clumping or “frosting” on the vials.



5)   Eat and hydrate yourself with fresh fruits.

Summer is the peak season for refreshing and replenishing melons, mangoes, peaches and plums. Their high water content and vitamins will help cool you down even on the hottest days.

• • Stay energised with good carbs Carbohydrates have gotten such a bad rap lately, you may believe you have to steer clear of fruit. Nothing could be further from the truth. You can safely eat a serving (one medium piece of fruit or 1/2 cup of melons) per day. That means you can enjoy, for instance, 1/2 cup juicy watermelon (5.5 g carbohydrates); a medium peach (14.5 g), 1/2 cup hand crushed pure mango juice (12 g) and other summer fruits.

6)   Protect yourself with vitamins and antioxidants.

Summer fruits and vegetables like Mango, Melons, Imli, Amla, Kala Jamuns, Cucumbers, Zucchini are also great sources of vitamins C and A. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that helps combat the adverse effects of free radicals from sun exposure, pollution and some processed foods. Vitamin A is essential for maintaining healthy skin. In addition, red fruits such as watermelon and tomatoes are rich sources of the antioxidant lycopene, shown in a recent University of Manchester study to help protect against sunburn damage.


7)  Wear summer-friendly clothing and keep yourself clean.

Wear clothes made of cotton in light colours that absorb sweat and not heat to keep you dry and cool as far as possible. Wash or shower with only water (no soap) and wipe your skin (specially the gaps between your fingers) to keep them dry at all times to avoid irritation and infections.


8)   Additional Tips For Insulin Pump Users.

• For insulin pump users, excessive perspiration can be a problem in hot weather or during strenuous activities. This can loosen the adhesive securing the infusion set, the part of the device that attaches to your body. If perspiration is a problem, try using a spray of antiperspirant on the insertion rhymes site after your usual skin-preparation routine. Others have success with skin-barrier preparations such as Cavilon, Mastisol, Skin-Tac H or a compound tincture of benzoin applied to the skin.
• The pump housing provides some insulation from the heat. If you are concerned about heat, you can use a protective pouch with a small, cold gel pack placed inside the pouch as a way to protect your insulin from the effects of heat. If you are spending an extended amount of time in the sun, cover the pump with a damp towel to protect it from prolonged direct sunlight. Disconnecting your pump for up to an hour is another option, but if it is disconnected for a longer time, you will need to adjust your insulin infusion rate accordingly to allow for the missed doses.

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