Diabetes in the summer heat.

I don’t believe I’ve ever written anything like this before. But, since we reached the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere last week, I think I’ll take a moment to talk about warm weather and diabetes, which don’t always mix well.

To begin with, did you know that People With Diabetes have a harder time regulating their temperatures in the heat than others do? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stresses on blood vessels and nerves can affect sweat glands, keeping us from cooling effectively.

We also get dehydrated easier. And if you’re an insulin user like me, temperatures north of 90° Fahrenheit change how we use that insulin.

Humidity is a factor too. Another thing I found out is that humidity keeps us from cooling because the sweat we do produce can’t really dry when it’s humid, and the drying is part of what helps us cool off.

Some of the things we should be doing to take care of ourselves at this time of year are summer no-brainers: drink lots of water, don’t go on a bender in the sun, wear loose, comfortable clothing… the usual.

But some other things are really important to remember for our diabetes. Like how insulin is affected by temperatures over 80°F. You don’t want the insulin in your pump skunked because you were working in the yard all day in the hot sun.

That’s why, on hot days, I take breaks more often than I might in the spring or autumn. I go inside. I cool off. I rehydrate. I make sure the insulin in my pump cools off too.

Here’s something else: plan for emergencies. We lost power at home for a little over 24 hours last week, when daytime thermometer readings were well into the 90s. If the outage would have lasted 24 more, I would have needed to go to my emergency plan for storing insulin: a cooler full of ice, my insulin vials in a plastic bag, wrapped in a thick towel. That will keep it cool enough without freezing it.

If you’re traveling or just out for the day, I suggest using a simple lunch cooler, with a gel pack or something similar inside, that will keep your insulin cool. Remember to wrap the insulin in something like a towel… you want to keep it cool, not frozen. If we’re just out for the day, I might freeze a bottle of water overnight and use that as my cooling agent. Once it’s melted, I can have it to drink on the way home.

Don’t forget that heat affects glucose monitors and test strips, and CGMs too. It’s also worth remembering that when you get into your car on a hot day, the extreme temps that exist in the short time before your A/C kicks in can mess up your pump and the insulin in it pretty fast.

That’s my summer diabetes sense two cents. I’m sure you probably have your own tips and tricks for dealing with diabetes in the summer. Feel free to add yours in the comments below.

Happy Summer!

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Comments

  • Cindy  On June 26, 2018 at 5:15 pm

    Hey thanks for the information. Sense I am new to insulin .. I didn’t realize it needed to be kept cool when traveling. And I wondered why I couldn’t tolerate heat any more. It gets pretty darn hot in Boise Idaho. But it’s dry heat. We can get to 110 degrees or more sometimes in July and August. That’s when you have to drink a lot of water just to go outside to the clothesline. And don’t forget to coverup and wear a hat too. Sunburns can be nasty. Wear Sunglasses too …especially if you have diabetic retinopathy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • StephenS  On June 26, 2018 at 7:10 pm

      Thanks for sharing Cindy… the tip about sunglasses and a hat are important to remember!

      Like

  • Lucia Maya  On June 26, 2018 at 6:51 pm

    All great suggestions! Living in Hawaii, and before that in Tucson, with temps over 100 degrees often, I loved my Frio for keeping insulin cool! It is small, easy to put in your purse or backpack, only requires water to activate (no ice, no refrigeration), and keeps insulin cool for many hours.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Rick Phillips  On June 26, 2018 at 9:20 pm

    I was going to toss in the Frio as well. Unfortunately someone beat me to it. Next time

    Liked by 1 person

  • Karen  On June 27, 2018 at 11:16 am

    Awesome tips!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Cindy  On June 27, 2018 at 1:35 pm

    Thanks everyone for the tips
    Iam always worried my frig is going to stop working its old. Then my insulin will be ruined. Any tips for this?

    Like

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