Longer days and sunnier skies tell us that summer is upon us.

While it’s important to go outside and enjoy the weather, the heat can also affect our health and well-being – especially for people with diabetes.

Whether you’re gardening in the front yard or making a day trip to an amusement park, these tips will help you beat the heat so you can relax and enjoy the summer fun.

1. Defeat Dehydration

No matter who you are, you run the risk of losing too much fluid in the heat due to sweating. But when you have diabetes, you also lose body fluid through frequent urination when blood sugar levels run too high. Additionally, some diabetes drugs, such as Jardiance, Farxiga, and Invokana, can increase the risk of a person becoming dehydrated.

How to beat it: Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day is the best way to stay hydrated while you’re out in the sun. The United States Department of Labor recommends people drink four cups of clear fluids for every hour spent moving in the heat. Although sports drinks are great for replacing nutrients and electrolytes lost through sweat, they can pack a sugary punch. Water is often the best bet. To help prevent excess sweating and fluid loss, consider wearing loose-fitting, lighter-colored clothing.

2. Manage Your Medications

Heat is known to affect diabetes medications and testing supplies. According to the Mayo Clinic, excess heat causes insulin to harden, which prevents it from working properly. Glucose meters may also malfunction when placed in extreme temperatures.

How to beat it: Be sure to store your medications at the temperature recommended by the manufacturer, or no warmer than 86° F. Avoid storing medications and glucose meters in warm places, such as a hot car or near sunny windows. If you use an insulin pump, the Mayo Clinic suggests checking it every hour you spend outside. If you are being more active than usual, you should check your sugars more often.

3. Watch Your Workout Timing

Working out in the middle of the afternoon may not be the best idea during the steamy summer months. Exercising in the hottest parts of the day, typically from 2 pm – 4 pm, can make you more prone to dehydration and heat-related illness.

How to beat it: Try rescheduling your workouts to the mornings or evenings when the temperatures are cooler and the sun isn’t beating down. If you must exercise in the afternoons, consider working out in an air-conditioned environment, such as at the gym or a community center. You could also consider less strenuous workouts in the heat, such as walking, which is an excellent way to stay active without pushing your body too hard.

4. Educate Yourself on Emergency Signs

During the summer months, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are two of the most common weather-related emergencies. Heat exhaustion occurs when your body gets overheated from too much activity or exposure to a hot environment. If left untreated, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke. Heatstroke occurs when the body can no longer regulate its temperature and is considered a life-threatening condition.

How to beat it: Know the symptoms of heat exhaustion.
  • High body temperature
  • Confusion
  • Fainting
  • Pale skin
  • Rapid pulse
  • Rapid breathing
  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting

If you or a loved one experience any of these symptoms, be sure to remove them from the hot environment as soon as possible. You can cool the person down by giving them cool fluids, removing hot and restrictive clothing, and providing them with cold towels/ice packs. Cold tubs of water, cold showers, or even a garden house can be used to cool them down. If symptoms persist, seek medical attention immediately.

Summary Spending time in the sun during the summer months is a great way to stay active and enjoy time with friends and family outside. If you follow the above tips, you’ll be able to embrace the sun while also controlling your diabetes. What do you do to stay healthy in the heat? Tell us in the comments below!

Disclaimer: Any information provided is not intended as medical advice. Iowa Diabetes is not responsible for any information from third parties.