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Diabetes and summer: Safety tips

It's the "dog days" here in Minnesota — the hottest, most sultry days of summer. In the northern hemisphere that's usually July and August. Such heat and humidity affects people with chronic conditions more than it does others.

If you have diabetes, here are some general tips to keep you safe when the weather is at its hottest.

  • Prevent dehydration. Both hot weather and high blood sugar can cause dehydration. So, if you have diabetes, it's doubly important to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day. Water is best. Avoid sugary beverages and sports drinks.
  • Avoid alcohol. Alcohol can affect your body's ability to regulate body temperature.
  • Strategically plan exercise and outdoor activities. Exercise and do outdoor yard work and other activities during the cooler hours of the day. My husband and I take our walks late in the evening and choose a path that's sheltered by trees. Unfortunately, in Minnesota, the mosquitos like the cool time of day, too! Alternatively, consider walking in a shopping mall or department store.
  • Dress appropriately. When humidity is high, your sweat can't evaporate as well. If the heat index reaches 91 F (33 C) or higher, wear clothing that allows sweat to evaporate easily.
  • Test your blood sugar occasionally. When outside in the heat, it doesn't hurt to occasionally test your blood sugar. As some of you have mentioned, low and high blood sugar can be a problem during hot weather.

Recognize and treat heat exhaustion to avoid heat stroke

Heat exhaustion symptoms

If you have diabetes, you're at greater risk of heat exhaustion, which occurs when you're exposed to high temperatures for a long period of time and don't replace the fluids you lose. Your body produces more heat than it can release.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Cool, moist skin with goose bumps when in the heat
  • Heavy sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Low blood pressure upon standing
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea
  • Headache

If you experience any of these symptoms on a hot, especially humid day, it's important that you take steps to avoid heat stroke.

Avoid heat stroke

Follow these tips to cool down if you experience any symptoms of heat exhaustion.

  • Find a cool, shady spot to rest. An air-conditioned building is even better. Rest on your back with your legs elevated.
  • Drink plenty of cool fluids. Avoid alcohol, which can worsen dehydration.
  • Take a cool shower or bath. If not possible, you can also wipe down with a cool cloth.
  • Adjust clothing. Loosen your clothing, and remove any unnecessary clothing.

If you don't feel better within 1 hour after taking these measures, seek prompt medical attention.

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