Summertime can bring extra challenges for people with diabetes. Research suggests that hot weather can lead to health issues for people with diabetes, making you more sensitive to high temperatures and humidity.
You may find it harder to keep your blood sugar levels under control, and you may be at increased risk for developing heat exhaustion.
So, when the weather heats up, its important to closely monitor your blood sugar levels and watch for possible symptoms that your body is not handling the heat very well. That way, you can take action before the situation becomes serious.
Its not just that the hot weather can make you feel tired and sluggish. It can have some negative effects on how your diabetes affects your body. For example, people with diabetes tend to get dehydrated more quickly than people without diabetes. Signs of mild to moderate dehydration can include:
When dehydration becomes more severe, you may develop:
Some people even notice their sweat production drops off.
Dehydration can make your blood glucose levels rise. Then, you may develop a more frequent need to urinate, which compounds the problem.
Youre also more vulnerable to heat exhaustion because diabetes can damage your blood vessels and nerves, including the nerves in your sweat glands, so you may not be able to cool your body as efficiently as it needs.
Additionally, high temps can alter how your body uses insulin. Typically, if youre exercising, it reduces your need for insulin. But hot weather can throw a wrench into that, and you may be at risk for both high and low blood glucose levels.
Thats a good incentive for discussing with a medical professional how to adjust your insulin, if need be, to account for your activity level and the weather.
In some places, its not just hot. Its hot and humid at the same time. The extra moisture in the air can make the heat feel worse.
And heres the challenge for people with diabetes: When its humid, your sweat doesnt evaporate as well as it would under drier conditions. That makes it harder to stay cool, and that can make it harder for you to keep your blood glucose levels under control.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests monitoring the heat index in your area, since that takes both temperature and humidity into account.
Managing your diabetes carefully is the best way to stay on top of the situation. Here are a few tips to help you do that and stay safe in the heat this summer:
If you have diabetes, youll want to monitor yourself for the possible development of symptoms of heat exhaustion, as well as hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. Sometimes the symptoms can be similar, so you may want to keep an eye out for a range of symptoms, and when in doubt, seek medical care.
Your body can overheat in response to hot weather and develop a condition known as heat exhaustion. Symptoms tend to include:
While not as serious as heat stroke, heat exhaustion can pave the way for it, so dont ignore these symptoms.
Hypoglycemia occurs when your blood sugar drops to abnormally low levels. Officially, it occurs when your blood glucose levels fall below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
Your risk for hypoglycemia increases in the summer because your metabolism tends to run higher in hot, humid weather, and youre more likely to absorb more insulin.
When hypoglycemia develops, you may start feeling confused or develop blurred vision. Other symptoms include:
In extreme cases, you may lose consciousness. Be sure to keep glucose tablets or another source of fast-acting carbohydrates on hand so you can take them right away if your blood sugar levels start to drop.
Hyperglycemia occurs when your blood glucose levels are too high. Your body either doesnt have enough insulin or it cant use the insulin it has effectively.
You have hyperglycemia if your blood sugar levels exceed 180 mg/dL after meals or hover above 130 mg/dL before you eat.
Feeling really thirsty or fatigued? Do you need to pee frequently? Those are common signs of hyperglycemia. Of course, excessive thirst and fatigue can also develop as a result of dehydration. But either way, you dont want to brush them off. Check your blood sugar levels and make sure youre also drinking enough fluids.
If you start developing signs that you are becoming dehydrated or having heat exhaustion, stop what youre doing. Head indoors to a cool spot, drink some fluids to help you rehydrate, and check your blood sugar levels.
If your blood sugar levels have dropped below 70 mg/dL, remember the 15-15 rule, suggests the American Diabetes Association. That is, consume 15 grams of carbs to raise your blood sugar levels and wait 15 minutes to test your levels again.
If your blood sugar levels are too high, quick-acting insulin can help counteract high blood sugar levels in many cases.
However, if your blood sugar levels are dangerously high, dont wait. Have someone take you to the hospital. If you have low insulin levels, and very high blood sugar levels, you could go into diabetic ketoacidosis, which is a medical emergency.
Summer can be a marvelous time, but the heat and humidity can take their toll on people with diabetes.
Its important to watch out for signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion, and keep close tabs on your blood glucose levels. Keep an ample supply of fluids, medications, and other supplies close by. That way you can reach for your medication, fast-acting carbohydrates, or other supplies as soon you need them.
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Diabetes and Heat: How to Stay Safe in Hot, Humid Weather - Healthline