people enjoying a summer day in a park

Summertime Showdown: How to Beat the Heat

Regarding summertime-specific diabetes tips for staying cool, most of us automatically think about checking blood sugars and staying hydrated. However, there are other ways of staying cool too! Whether at work, out with friends, or even on vacation. Beating the heat doesn't have to be a challenge.

Feeling the heat

You know it's summer when you step outside and feel like the air is just a big humidity-filled tent. The sun beats down hot, and your feet stick to the asphalt even at night when you finally get off work. And in this Texas heat, it feels like you can cook an egg or even bake a pan of cookies on your car's dashboard. It might seem like a hot spell is no big deal for those of us with diabetes, but it can be if you aren't paying attention.

My experiences with dehydration

Keeping cool and staying hydrated are just a few things that can literally save your life. My journey with diabetes started after I was rushed to the emergency room because I passed out at work due to dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Living with diabetes comes with many dos and don'ts on the regular. During the summer, we have to be a little bit more mindful. These are some tips that help me stay cool and feel good. Some may sound basic, but it doesn't hurt to reiterate to help stay healthy this summer.

1. Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of water throughout the day and avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can lead to dehydration. Many people like to throw back sports drinks like Gatorade, but be mindful of the sugar content in sports drinks.

2. Munch on fruits and veggies

Choose foods with a low glycemic index (GI) like fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. This will help keep your blood sugar levels steady so you don't experience spikes and dips in energy levels during outdoor activities.

My favorite snack is trail mix. It has that right amount of sweetness mixed with nuts that have protein. Find the right combination of snacks that work for you!

3. Keep cool while you keep it moving

Finding ways to be active during daylight hours can be challenging with the summer heat. Taking advantage of parks, outdoor concerts, or other events near your home is always fun, but, as my 2-year-old says, "Mr. Sun is mad today!"

If it's too hot for you to exercise safely outside, look for other activities that can be done indoors or in an air-conditioned space. You can do some indoor activities such as swimming or shopping at an indoor mall (walking) until temperatures cool down in the evening.

As my grandmother told me when I was a kid, "Make sure you stay under the shade of that tree so you don't get too hot." Another favorite activity of mine now is going to the indoor trampoline park with my son. You can work up a sweat and stay cool in there!

4. Wear a hat

I love wearing my snapbacks and fitted caps. Let me tell you, with all the years I have spent covering professional sports teams; I have a lot of hats to show off. Something as simple as wearing a hat can keep the "angry" sun from beating down on your face and neck.

5. Wear lightweight and breathable clothing

I am a fan of polo shirts. When I was younger, I never liked what is called "coaches shirts," but now, it's all I wear.

Wearing a shirt with moisture-wicking fabric probably holds the same excitement for me that my wife has when she wears a sundress that has pockets. I learned my lesson from wearing heavy clothing in the summer. Make sure you execute your summer style with light and breathable clothes. Lightweight clothing will help with keeping you cool and keep you from dehydrating.

6. Plan your time in the heat

This tip is probably the MOST important. Planning your time in the summer heat is critical. Post-pandemic, more people want to do activities outside, which is understandable. As someone with diabetes, checking your glucose and the length of time you plan to spend outdoors will be very helpful. The stress your body endures when it gets overheated can be detrimental to your diabetes management. So, plan your time accordingly.

Whatever you're doing this summer, remember that any time spent outside can wreak havoc on your blood sugar. However, by keeping a few simple tips in mind, you'll be able to manage your diabetes just fine!

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