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Managing diabetes in summer heat

Managing Diabetes in the Summer Heat

In the last few posts, I’ve covered a few things about what it’s like to have and manage diabetes that we might not learn from the doctor’s office: things like the basics of diabetes, how our diet affects our numbers, and how we should manage illness.


Today, I’d like to talk a little bit about managing diabetes during the hot Summer months and the precautions we should take. It’s common knowledge that the Summer can be a dangerous time for the average person. The heat can be so intense, that it’s recommended we:

  • Wear light colored clothing, in gauzy fabrics which can breathe more easily, like cottons or linens;
  • Wear sunscreen and hats/baseball caps when we have to be exposed directly to the Sun;
  • Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water, juice, or diet sports drinks – while avoiding diuretics such as diet sodas, coffee, or tea;
  • Do any exercising or yard work in the early mornings, or later in the evenings (at dusk and dawn);
  • Take cooling showers regularly; and
  • Look out for signs of heat exhaustion, such as dizziness, light-headedness or fainting, headache, cramps, nausea, confusion, fatigue, etc.

But when we have diabetes, we should be extra cautious to the effects of Summer heat. Summer heat can quickly affect glucose numbers – leading to unpredictable scenarios of either high blood sugar, or episodes of hypoglycemia. (Hypoglycemia is when our blood sugar levels dip below 70 mg/dL or 3.9 mmol/L.) High blood sugar may lead to excessive dehydration, which may in turn, lead to diabetic complications such as ketoacidosis, or hyperosmolarity. Heat is also known to more quickly affect persons who have other chronic health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.


So, keeping all of these things in mind, it is important that we actually follow through with the precautions above, but also…

  • Test glucose levels regularly, particularly if you don’t feel well. Take twice as many diabetes supplies with you any time you are going on vacation than you would normally need;
  • Keep all testing supplies (including meter and strips) and medications in a cool place, and away from direct sunlight. An overheated meter and strips will NOT be accurate. Keep insulin stored in a lunch bag with an ice pack, or a frio bag;
  • Keep appropriate snacks and glucose tabs with you at all times, for quick treating of hypoglycemia;
  • Do not skip meals – skipping meals adds to the likelihood of unpredictable blood glucose;
  • Keep water or a dietary sports drink with us, at all times – do not rely on someone else having water available;
  • Evaluate your workplace setting, and consider asking for appropriate accommodations. (A few Summers ago, I suffered from heat exhaustion while working the register at my place of employment. Management was quick and gracious enough to provide me with a personal fan, as well as allowing bottled water.)

Summer should be a fun time for all, where we are more active and enjoy the great outdoors, but the heat can be a challenge for any person. It can be especially risky when we have diabetes. With just a few extra steps we can avoid complications and risky situations.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.