Diabetics: Take care in extreme heat

In 80 degree Fahrenheit temperatures, those with diabetes need to take extra precaution when caring for themselves and their diabetic supplies.

People with diabetes need to take extra care in hot weather. Temperatures of 80 degrees Fahrenheit /27 degrees Celsius or above, especially with humidity, can affect medication, testing supplies and general health.

It is harder for the body of a person with diabetes to handle high heat and humidity than it is for someone not living with the chronic illness. The heat index, which measures how hot it feels by combining temperature and humidity readings, advises caution starting at 80F with 40 percent humidity.

In addition to those with diabetes, there are personal factors such as age, obesity, the presence of a fever, dehydration, heart disease, mental illness, poor circulation, sunburn, prescription drug and alcohol use, that can play a role in whether a person can cool off enough to maintain good health.

Here are suggestions from Center for Disease Control (CDC) Division of Diabetes Translation on taking care during hot weather:

  • Test blood glucose more often, as heat can affect blood glucose (sugar) levels and also increase absorption of some fast-acting insulin.  This means the intake of insulin, food and liquids may need to be adjusted.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, to avoid dehydration. Avoid sugar-sweetened and alcoholic beverages. Also avoid very cold fluids because they can cause stomach cramps. If a medical care provider has limited the amount of liquid to be consumed, ask what to do during times of high heat.
  • Check package inserts with medications to learn when high temperatures can affect them. If you’re traveling with insulin, don’t store it in direct sunlight or in a hot car. Keep it in a cooler, but do not place it directly on ice or on a gel pack.
  • Check glucose meter and test strip packages for information on use during times of high heat/humidity. Do not leave them in a hot car, by a pool or on the beach. Heat can damage insulin pumps and other equipment. Do not leave a disconnected pump or supplies in direct sun.
  • Get physical activity in air-conditioned areas, or exercise outside early or late in the day, during cooler temperatures.
  • Take cool showers or baths to cool down.
  • Never leave anyone, adult or child, in a closed parked vehicle when temperatures are high.

Air conditioning is the number one protective factor against heat-related illness. If a home is not air conditioned, consider spending time in public buildings in the community, such as public libraries or shopping areas, that are air conditioned. Even a few hours spent in air conditioning can help the body stay cooler when returning to the heat. In times of prolonged high temperatures, some communities open cooling/heat relief facilities. Local health departments can generally advise whether or not these facilities exist in your area.

To learn more about staying healthy in hot weather, visit the CDC’s website.

For more information on education available to people living with diabetes or other chronic conditions, and other issues of interest to Michigan families, contact a Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educator in your area.

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