BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - If you have diabetes, proper planning and special precautions are necessary in the hottest summer months because the heat can significantly impact your blood sugar.
There are four key points for diabetics to pay close attention to in the summer heat, according to Ochsner primary care physician Kate Freeman, M.D.
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"Sunburn, dehydration, foot ulcers and medication storage should be top of mind," said Dr. Freeman.
Sunburn can raise blood sugars. The pain causes stress, and stress increases blood sugar levels.
Staying hydrated is a must for everyone, especially diabetics. Less water in your body means a higher blood sugar concentration. As blood sugar levels rise, so too will urination frequency -- resulting in further dehydration.
Hot temperatures can also cause blood vessels to dilate, increasing insulin absorption speed and potentially causing lower blood sugar.
"Everyone enjoying the summer sun should pay attention to signs of heat exhaustion which may include dizziness, weakness, nausea, headaches, muscle cramps and/or chills," added Dr. Freeman.
"Keep a water bottle with you and sip on it often - don't wait until you're thirsty!" Diabetics should avoid sugary sports drinks, opting for water or zero-sugar sports drinks.
Plan ahead if you are going to exercise outdoors or do yard work. The best times are earlier in the day (before 10:00 a.m.) or later in the day (after 5:00 PM) when outdoor temperatures are cooler.
Diabetics must be mindful of the shoes they are wearing. If they are on their feet a lot, then consider wearing a half-size larger to account for swelling and avoid foot ulcers. During the summer, we are more tempted to wear open-toe shoes or go barefoot. Don't forget to check your feet at the end of every day.
It's important to protect your diabetes medication and supplies. The summer heat can cause medications to break down, losing their intended result, and can also damage test strips, leading to inaccurate blood sugar readings.
Be sure to check your medication's temperature storage directions – most specify room temperature – and never leave your medications in the car. Insulin needs to be kept cool, but not on ice. There are insulin cooling cases that make it easy to travel with temperature-sensitive medications and test strips. If medication is mailed, make sure it doesn't sit in a hot mailbox or front step all day.
Ochsner recommends that diabetics check their blood sugar more often during the summer heat. It's especially important to recognize what low blood sugar feels like and treat it as soon as possible.