Heat, Humidity, and Diabetes
Christy Evans, Family Nurse Practitioner, HopeHealth Diabetes & Nutrition Institute
With vacations, cookouts and the like, summertime usually means more time outdoors. And extended periods of time in the heat and humidity of South Carolina means increased risk of dehydration – especially if you have diabetes.
Dehydration from sweating or decreased fluid intake can raise your blood sugar and lead to hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). It can cause symptoms such as increased thirst, frequent urination, increased hunger, fatigue, headaches, blurred vision, dizziness, excess sweating, fainting, muscle cramps, cold or clammy skin, and increased heart rate.
Hypoglycemic risks (low blood sugar) can also increase during the hot weather. Do not ignore possible signs of low blood sugar such as sweating or feeling tired. Keep simple sugars such as glucose tablets, juice or hard candy on hand in case of low blood sugar levels. If you take insulin, you might need to adjust your dose when outside in the heat. Discuss insulin adjustments with your health care provider.
Tips to stay safe this summer and keeping your diabetes management under control include staying hydrated, scheduling activities in the cooler hours of the day and checking your blood sugar more frequently. You might need to increase your water intake. Carry a bottle of water with you at all times and add a squeeze of lemon or lime for flavor. Avoid sugary drinks such as sodas, alcohol and drinks with caffeine, which can cause a spike in blood sugar.
If you think you are becoming overheated, rest in a cool place such as in an air-conditioned room, in front of a fan or a shaded area, remove unnecessary clothing and drink cool fluids. You can also use wet towels to cool your skin. If symptoms persist, seek medical care immediately.
Remember, heat can also damage your medications, including insulin and test strips. Keep these items out of direct sunlight and in a cool space. Use a small cooler bag for medications if you need to take it to outside activities.
Since diabetes can impact sensitivity and healing in the feet, proper foot care is also important, especially during the summer when feet can get sweaty. Keep a dry pair of socks on hand in case your feet get wet, check your feet daily for sores or cuts, and keep your feet dry and protected by wearing proper shoes. Avoid walking barefoot to prevent cuts and abrasions or burning your feet from hot pavement or sand.
Enjoy the sweet summer time, but be sure to take the proper precautions and remember to stay cool, check your blood sugar often and drink plenty of fluids.