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How to Manage Diabetes During the Summer Season
The summer comes with longer and hotter days. Although many people look forward to the warmer weather and outdoor activities, it can be a difficult time for those who need to manage diabetes.
If you have diabetes, extreme heat can affect your blood sugar levels. The high temperatures can also damage the equipment and medicine essential for those with diabetes.1
Here are some facts about diabetes and the ways that the heat affects those with diabetes. We also have signs for diabetics to look out for and tips for managing diabetes in the summer.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how the body turns food into energy.2
Most of the food you eat is broken down into glucose (sugar) and released into the bloodstream. When your body’s blood sugar increases, the pancreas releases insulin, allowing blood sugar into the cells that can be stored or used for energy. When someone has diabetes, the body either does not make enough insulin or the body is unable to use it.3
There are two main types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks cells in the pancreas, the primary producer of insulin. About 5-10% of people with diabetes have this type.4
- Type 2 diabetes is when an individual’s body becomes resistant to insulin, which causes sugar to build up in the blood.5 Approximately 90-95% of people with diabetes have this type.6
How the Heat Affects Those with Diabetes
Did you know that individuals with type 1 and type 2 diabetes feel the heat more than those who are not diabetic? There are a few explanations for this:
- Diabetes can cause damage to blood vessels and nerves, which can affect the sweat glands and the body’s cool down process.
- People with diabetes can experience dehydration more quickly than others.
- Heat can change how the body uses insulin.
The heat can negatively impact a diabetic person based on what they’ve eaten, their hydration levels, and their activity levels.7
If the heat or being active causes an individual who is diabetic to sweat a lot, then they can become dehydrated, leading to a rise in glucose levels. Dehydration also reduces blood supply to the skin, which affects the body’s ability to absorb medication. This could be an issue if that person needs insulin.1
Additionally, extreme temperatures can affect medications left in the heat or direct sunlight. High temperatures can cause the medication to degrade and become ineffective.
Managing Diabetes During the Summer
Managing diabetes in the summer can be timely and confusing. Here are some signs to look out for if you’re diabetic, as well as some management tips to avoid any health concerns during the summer.
Signs to Look Out For
Heat exhaustion, hypoglycemia, and hyperglycemia are common among those with diabetes during long, hot days. If you or a loved one is diabetic, here are some signs to watch out for during the summer months.8
- Drop in blood pressure
- Feeling faint or dizzy
- Weak or rapid pulse rate
- Extreme thirst
Tips for Management
Here are some important tips to make sure you or your loved ones with diabetes stay safe and healthy in the heat.9
- Drink plenty of water
- Avoid drinks that lead to water loss and spiked blood sugar levels, such as coffee and alcohol
- Test your blood sugar as often as you can
- Keep medicine and equipment out of the heat
- Wear loose, light clothing to stay as cool as possible
- Stay in the air conditioning or shade when possible
- Have a plan in case you lose power, or if you’re going somewhere without air conditioning for an extended amount of time
- Protect your skin since sunburn can raise blood sugar levels
- Don’t leave medicine in direct sunlight or a hot car
If you’re diabetic and spend a lot of time in the heat or are very active during the summer, talk with your doctor about adjusting your insulin dosage if needed.
Stay Safe and Healthy This Summer
If you or a loved one has diabetes, we encourage you to learn more about your risks during the summer season. Take the steps necessary to remain safe and healthy all season long.
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Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long-term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.
- “How to Manage Your Diabetes in Extreme Summer Heat.” Cleveland Clinic, clevelandclinic.org. July 21st, 2020. Accessed June 14th, 2022. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/how-to-manage-your-diabetes-in-extreme-summer-heat/.
- “What is Diabetes?” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. December 16th, 2021. Accessed June 15th, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/diabetes.html.
- Watson, Stephanie. “Everything You Need to Know About Diabetes.” Healthline Media, healthline.com. February 26th, 2020. Accessed June 15th, 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/diabetes.
- “Type 1 diabetes.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Mayo Clinic. March 27th, 2021. Accessed June 15th, 2022. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/type-1-diabetes/symptoms-causes/syc-20353011.
- Dansinger, Michael. “Type 2 Diabetes.” WebMD, webmd.com. December 6th, 2020. Accessed June 15th, 2022. https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/type-2-diabetes.
- “Diabetes Fast Facts.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed June 15th, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/quick-facts.html.
- Snouffer, Elizabeth. “Heat and diabetes are a dangerous combination.” International Diabetes Federation, diabetesvoice.org. July 23rd, 2019. Accessed June 15hth, 2022. https://diabetesvoice.org/en/living-with-diabetes/extreme-heat-and-diabetes/#:~:text=Extreme%20heat%20with%20diabetes%20can,a%20rise%20in%20glucose%20levels.
- Larson, Jennifer. “How Do Heat and Humidity Affect Diabetes?” Healthline Media, healthline.com. June 29th, 2021. Accessed June 14th, 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/diabetes/diabetes-and-heat.
- “Managing Diabetes in the Heat.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed June 14th, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/manage-diabetes-heat.html.