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Heat and diabetes

Diabetes research is turning up new information on diabetes and diabetes management all the time. In 2009, I wrote a blog about the effects of heat on blood glucose control if you have diabetes. I mentioned, then, that heat doesn't have a direct effect on your blood glucose, but that heat can lead to changes in your daily routine which, in turn, can affect your blood glucose.

Later research, published in September 2010 by researchers at Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, Ariz., suggests, additionally, that some Arizonans with diabetes have considerable gaps in their "heat awareness."

This lack of awareness led to actions such as waiting until temperatures were quite high (above 101 F, or 38.3 C) before taking precautions against the heat and leaving medications and supplies at home rather than risk exposing them to the heat — meaning not having the supplies to manage diabetes while away from home.

Sweating is an important means of cooling the body in hot weather, and the ability to sweat can be affected in some people with diabetes. Other studies have shown an increase in emergency room visits, in those who have diabetes, when temperatures are high. Diabetes equipment and medications can also be affected by heat.

Tips for managing diabetes in warm temperatures remain the same:

  • Avoid sunburn, it can stress your body and can raise your blood glucose. Wear a good sunscreen, sunglasses and hat when out in the sun.
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Carry a bottle of water with you on walks, etc.
  • Exercise and do more strenuous activities in the early or later hours of the day when the temperatures are cooler and the sun is not at its peak.
  • Check blood sugar levels frequently, since they may fluctuate.
  • Remember, extreme temperature changes can have an effect on your diabetes supplies; insulin can break down, blood glucose meters and test strips can be damaged, and altitude can affect blood glucose meter performance. Use insulated bags protected by a cool pack to safely store your supplies, but avoid freezing.
  • Wear light colored clothing made of fabrics that can "breathe."

In extreme heat, also take these extra measures:

  • Avoid exercising outdoors; choose an indoor, air-conditioned place.
  • Never go barefoot on hot surfaces.
  • Watch for signs of possible heat exhaustion such as dizziness, fainting and, for some people, excessive sweating. Seek medical attention if you experience these symptoms.
  • Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages that can be dehydrating, in addition to drinking plenty of water.

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