Managing Diabetes in Hot Weather
When the hot, hot heat of summer is upon us, it’s time to start thinking about how the heat and humidity can affect everything from insulin effectiveness to dehydration … and all the potential variables in between.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, certain diabetes-related complications can make it tougher for your body to cool itself as effectively, which can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Diabetes can also make dehydration happen more quickly, so PWD need to make hydration and staying cool a priority.
We have some tips on making the most of your summer vacation without sacrificing diabetes care.
Stay hydrated. Both heat and high blood sugars can contribute to dehydration, so drinking plenty of water is important. Some sugar-free lemonade or a canteen of ice water can really hit the spot. And watch out for too much coffee … you might want to stick with water, as caffeine can increase your chances of dehydration.
Keep tabs on your blood sugars. Heat can mask the symptoms of high or low blood sugar, so keep careful watch on your glucose meter or CGM graph as you’re enjoying the summer sunshine. (And make sure your hands are clean when you’re checking blood sugars, as sunscreens and other lotions can cause inaccurate BG results!)
Keep your diabetes devices stuck. Heat can make your diabetes device adhesives less sticky, so make use of the various tapes and overlays available for your pump sites and CGM sensors.
Avoid sunburn. Sunburns can make your skin very uncomfortable, and they can also wreck havoc on your blood sugars. Your body views sunburns as a skin injury, causing stress and potentially high blood sugars. Make sure you are diligent about applying sunscreen and consider adding a sunhat and coverup to your beach bag.
Insulin and Heat
Worried about how the heat will affect your insulin? Here are some tips on storing your insulin supply, and how to keep track of your insulin’s effectiveness:
Storing unopened insulin: Insulin should be kept, unopened, between 36 – 46 degrees Fahrenheit/ 2 – 8 degrees Celsius, and if your insulin supply is stored at the recommended temperature, it should be effective until the listed expiration date. The expiration date is listed on both the bottle itself and the packaging.
Storing opened insulin: Once the rubber stopper of an insulin vial or pen is punctured, it is considered open. Open vials can be stored at controlled room temperature for 28 days, and then it must be thrown out. Open insulin pens should be stored at controlled room temperature for 7 – 28 days (this range depends on the kind of pen you use – read the package insert for specifics). Write the date that you opened the vial or pen on it in a permanent marker, to help you keep track of when it should be considered for disposal.
Do not keep your insulin in hot places, like a closed car. Same goes for freezing places – if your insulin freezes, do not use it, even after it thaws. Both hot and cold temperatures will break the insulin down and it will be ineffective (and unpredictable) in lowering your blood sugar.
Also avoid keeping your insulin in direct sunlight, as the sun will also make insulin break down. Always inspect your insulin before injecting it, to make sure that it doesn’t look cloudy or crystalized.