Diabetes and Heat: Hacks for Fun in the Sun!

Diabetes and Heat: Hacks for Fun in the Sun!

Summertime is the best time of the year! BBQ’s, swimming, and friends all equal the recipe for fun. While you are searching for your perfect Speedo to impress the crowd, make sure you have all of these tools in your pocket to ensure this summer will go smoothly.

Diabetes and Heat by Laurel Ann Nutrition

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Do People with Diabetes have a harder time tolerating the heat?

Science says yes! Studies show that people with diabetes have a delayed sweating response with heat exposure. This is great for those who want to avoid those embarrassing armpit stains, but not as great for our body temperatures. Sweat is our bodies way of cooling us down to avoid overheating. Without the salty drops, our body temperatures are at risk to rise, leading to heat exhaustion.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion are very similar to low blood glucose. Make sure to check your blood glucose even if you think the symptoms are related to the heat.

Symptoms of Heat exhaustion vs symptoms of low blood sugar

Higher body temperatures can lower blood glucose. Some may even notice their A1c is improved during the summer months (yay!). Caution should be made for those who are taking glucose-lowering medication, as the heat can cause hypoglycemia.

Similarly, you may notice lower blood glucose levels in the hot tub or bath. In the heat, blood flow increases to your skin and blood vessels expand. This combination decreases our blood glucose levels. Keep caution and talk with your doctor before spending time in the hot tub or hot bath.

Warm skin absorbs insulin faster, which could lead to further hypoglycemia. Best advice? Check blood glucose levels more often or consider a continuous glucose monitor. Also, talk with your medical provider if you notice lower than normal glucose levels.

Dehydration and Diabetes

Dehydration is more common in the warm months and is dangerous. People with diabetes should take extra care to avoid dehydration by always carrying an extra bottle of water.

Dehydration leads to —> higher blood glucose levels leading —> to further fluid loss —> which, worsens the dehydration. Avoid this vicious cycle and stay hydrated!

Speaking of hydration… what about alcohol?

Alcohol and diabetes.

Don’t be like the frog and keep all the wine to yourself! That is not a way to make friends at the party. And always speak with your physician before partaking in alcohol responsibly.

Alcohol lowers blood glucose so keep a close eye on your numbers. Sugary alcoholic beverages can lead to increased blood glucose levels. Alcohol also has a special effect on our urinary system. These frequent bathroom breaks combined with the heat lead to dehydration and then we are in trouble!

If you do decide to drink alcohol, choose beverages that are low in sugar, monitor your blood glucose frequently, and drink more water.

Plan to go to the beach?

Consider some cute water shoes to help protect those feet! Water shoes are a great way to avoid getting cut on sharp items like shells in the water.

When looking for a pair of water shoes use the same principals as picking out a regular pair of shoes. Find a pair that fit well and do not rub up against your skin.

Be sure to swap out your shoes and completely dry your feet when you leave the water. 

Sunburns and Diabetes

Sunburns can activate stress during the healing process, causing our blood glucose to rise.

To avoid this, make sure to use an SPF greater than 30 and re-apply every 30 to 60 minutes if spending extended time in the sun.

If you want to avoid adding too many steps to your routine, try a moisturizer with SPF. Just make sure to avoid using a moisturizer/SPF that contains alcohol as this can further dry out your skin.

When spending extending time in the sun be sure to apply sunscreen to the entire body. Our clothing does not completely protect us from the sun, so it is important to cover all areas. You can also consider some SPF clothing to combat those rays.

As with lotion, avoid lathering up the area between your toes. Extra moisture in this area may cause fungal growth.

Extra Steps for Success in the Sun

Check your blood glucose more often

This is the #1 recommendation for staying safe this summer. Our bodies do weird things in the heat and your meter will be your window into what’s happening.

Stay Hydrated!

Dehydration leads to high blood glucose levels which lead to further dehydration. Avoid the vicious cycle and carry a water bottle with you at all times.

Pack Snacks :-)

Snacks can help keep you regulate blood glucose. A great snack combines a protein and around 15 grams of carbohydrates (or more! - ask your dietitian for personalized information).

Traveling snack ideas for people with diabetes.

Store your medications out of the sun

Medications are expensive! Don’t let them get ruined in the sun.

Many types of insulin will begin to degrade at temperatures higher than 93-95 F (34-35 C). Other diabetic medications are also susceptible to heat damage. Read the medication inserts for more information on specific guidelines.

Bring a cooler bag to safely store your medications away from the heat.

Keep your insulin pumps, meters, and strips out of the direct sun and out of any hot car.

Keep a kit to treat hypos!

Don’t forget to pack some fast digesting carbohydrates in case you need to address a hypoglycemic episode. As a rule of thumb, eat something with 15 grams of carbohydrates, then wait 15 minutes and re-check blood glucose. You can carry glucose tablets or a candy- 2 packets of smarties = 15 grams of quick-digesting carbs :-)

Ask your provider if a glucagon kit is appropriate for you. Make sure to educate the people you are traveling with on the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia.

Going to an outdoor festival?

Locate the medical tent and introduce yourself! This important step lets the medical staff learn about you and how they can help in an event that something goes wrong.

Exercising considerations

Try to be active early and late in the day when the temperatures are lower. Or skip the heat altogether and walk in the mall or go to an air-conditioned gym.

At the end of the day enjoy the sun with family and friends! Plan ahead and enjoy :-)


Author: Laurel Ann Deininger, MS, RDN, LDN, CDE