Diabetes and Heat-Understanding the risk of hot weather

Diabetes is a problem which can be influenced by variety of factors. In this article we will try to understand the relationship between diabetes and heat, and try to figure out whether high temperature can influence blood sugar.

 

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Dehydration and rise in blood sugar
According to Dr. Charles Davis, dehydration is basically loss of fluid from the body to the extent that it cannot function normally. 75% of our body weight is made up of water and it is very crucial to maintain this balance otherwise problems will occur.

Dehydrates is rampant in during summer season. High temperature forces the body to sweat and release fluids in order to cool of the body. If the fluid loss is not replenished back by the person, he then run into the risk of getting dehydration.

With diabetes, the issue gets more complex. The person with diabetes will find his blood sugar increasing due to loss of fluids. As the water gets lost outside the body the concentration of sugar in the blood increases, which led to the rise in blood sugar.

The rise in blood sugar will cause frequent urination which further result in loss of fluid and then further rise in blood sugar. Dehydration basically starts a vicious cycle where you blood sugar rises constantly until you face some kind of uneasiness.
Hence, it is very important to check the blood sugar during summer and take proper insulin dose in order to protect your body from diabetes.
Hypoglycemia
Diabetics are also prone to hypoglycemic condition as during warm weather you body metabolism gets faster and your insulin sensitivity improves.

This point is very important for children living with Type 1 diabetes as they may face hypoglycemic episode between their plays. They may misunderstood the symptoms (sweating, fast breathing) as only the effect of the physical activity which can lead to dangerous situation.

The parents should keep an eye on their children’s blood sugar level during their playtime. There are various technologies available which help to track the sugar level of patient, one need to use these kind of resources for their benefit.

Hypoglycemia is not limited to diabetic children. There are many people who like to go on tracking or touring during summers. This increase their physical activity which in couple with warm temperature may cause low blood sugar episode.

Always make a point to carry something sugary in order to handle this dangerous situation. Keep in mind that low blood sugar is very dangerous if not treated in time, it can cause seizure and even loss of life.

 

Diabetic Equipment
Insulin, test strips and glucometer are some of the medical instruments on which life of Type 1 diabetic is dependent. Any error or fault in the functioning can make the blood sugar go haywire and make the patient’s life difficult.

The problem with summers is that its high temperature can damage the functioning of these medical supplies. Insulin is known to be very temperature sensitive and can get easily damaged with warm temperature.

In tropical country like India where climate is warm throughout the year, the insulin is always kept in the refrigerator for its effective functioning. So its very important to make sure that the insulin is kept in the recommended temperature and is always stored inside coolant whenever you travel outside.

Also note that the glucose testing strips are also temperature sensitive. So make sure that you keep it away from direct sunlight and have proper bag to store these devices.

While doing the research, i had a chat with one of the senior person who has been living with diabetes for many years. Regarding this subject, he advised that:

a. Do not leave insulin in a parked car during summers. Cars tend to heat up with sun rays developing inappropriate temperature for keeping medical supplies

b. While travelling outside, do not keep the insulin in hotel temperature as it may freeze the hormone rendering it useless. Its better to use insulin storage bags which are easily available in the market

c. While visiting a beach, make sure to carry a small cooler to protect insulin from the heat

d. While planning a trip outside, make sure you wear comfortable flip-flops/shoes.
Please do not go barefoot in the beach, there is a risk of hurting/infecting your feet.

f. Keep a watch for fungal/bacterial infection between the toes. There are lots of anti fungal cream available, so treat the problem as soon as you notice it. Visit the skin doctor immediately if you think the situation is out of hand.

 

Body Temperature
According to Temperature: Medical Physiology and Beyond Journal “diabetics are in greater risk of getting heat related illness during heat waves and physical activity due to an impaired capacity to dissipate heat”

This is because diabetes affect the blood circulation through skin and affects the sweating response of the person which results in disturbance in body’s cooling mechanism.

Any person who is diabetic for long period of time and has been suffering from any complication should avoid demanding physical activity in warm environment.
This is particularly applicable for person living in tropical country like India where majority of the time the climate is warm. India is known to be a diabetic capital of the world and i am afraid that people have limited knowledge about the disease management.
Sunburn and Diabetes

When you expose your skin for long period to the sun, there is a great chance that your skin may burn. This problem is more rampant during summers when the people are more inclined to go the the beach without any protective clothing.
People have little or no information about this problem, but let me tell you, if affected sunburn can give you serious trouble, so better to be aware of the situation and find out ways to avoid it.

Symptoms of Sunburn
The affected area will get red and gives your burning sensation. You may also give fluid blisters which are itchy and painful to touch. After few days your skin may start peeling as your body tries to get rid off the damaged skin.

Serious patient will also suffer from
a. Headaches
b. Fever
c. Nausea
d. Weakness

Does sunburn affect blood sugar?
Everything gets complicated with diabetes. Apart from those painful blisters, a diabetic patient also need to deal with high blood sugar caused by the sunburn.

A sunburn is basically a wound which cause stress in the body and thus cause rise in blood sugar. It gets very important for a diabetic patient to monitor their blood sugar frequently and deliver suitable insulin dose to control the problem.
Precautions for Diabetic Patient
It is very important to save yourself from unnecessary problems. Diabetes is already notorious for creating havoc in people’s lives and if you put yourselves under other medical troubles your life will be a living hell. Here are some of the tips to prevent sunburn cases:

a. Protect the body by wearing cloths
While going on a trek or beach, try to cover your body with comfortable cloths.
Exposing your skin to the harmful rays will increasing your chances of sunburn.

b. Wear Sunscreen (above SPF 30)
Sunscreen can provide you good protection to the parts which cannot be covered by the cloths such as face or neck. Check that the sunscreen SPF 30 or above. Also confirm that the sunscreen is not expired.

Understand that sunscreen is not one stop solution for skin burn. There are lot of cases where the person have taken all the necessary care but still couldn’t avoid the sunburn.

I have just listed all the necessary steps that you should consider before going out in heavy heat. These precautions will reduce your risk of getting sunburn and prevent from unnecessary pain.

c. Extra Protection in high altitude
If you love exploring hill stations you need to be extra careful. the higher you go, the closer you get with the sun which means high risk of sunburn.
Take extra precautions in this case, cover your skin and apply thick coat of sunscreen over the exposed parts.


Learning from other’s mistakes
The best thing you can do in life in to learn from other’s mistake, This strategy will save you lots of time and money. I have come across various people who have learned the hard way and exposed themselves to sunburn injuries.

Maisie Squires, a 16 year old girl from UK was severely sunburned during her visit to Cuba.

In the story published by Fox news, Maisie recalls “”I was not aware that my back was burning as I was in the cool water, concentrating on snorkeling.”

Later she had to face great burning pain and blisters due to the skin damage. What surprised everyone was that it all happened with the period of one hour.

Another story published by Kevin (a Type 1 diabetic) in his personal blog where he described how he got sunburned by visiting a local swimming pool in not so hot environment and then how he had to deal with the spike in blood sugar.
From his writing one can understand how easily you can burn skin cells from the scorching sun and why it is important to take all the precautionary steps.
Treatment of Sunburn for diabetic patient
1. If you feel something is wrong with the skin, the first thing you should do is to get immediately out of the direct sun rays.

2. Apply cold compress or take a cold shower

3. Various sunburn creams are available in the market. Look out for gel which contain Menthol or Camphor as ingredient.

4. You can also take anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen which can help relieve your pain.

5. Immediately visit dermatologist if you feel that a large portion of the skin is affected. Keep in mind that blisters may develop within few hours of sunburn, so taking the help of doctor may be a smart decision.

 

Dealing summer season with diabetes
Peggy Moreland, a certified diabetes educator shares following tips in mayoclinic.org

a. Prevent Dehydration
As diabetic patients are more likely to get dehydrated in summers, they are advised to keep water bottle with them. While there are various designs of water bottles available in the market but it’s believed that bottle made with copper metal provides great benefit to diabetic patients.

According to NDTV Website “the copper water has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant property which is helpful for healing wound faster, for digestive system and for making red blood cells”
b. Wear Light and Loose fitting Cloths
Try to wear cloths which are light in weight and are made up of fabric which allow easy evaporation of your sweat. Wearing tight cloths in humid-summer will make you uncomfortable and also hamper your work efficiency.diabetes shirt

Personally i love to wear simple cotton T shirt which is one size larger than my body size.
I am 5 ‘7 inches tall with medium built.  My regular size for T shirt is Medium but i love to wear shirts of XL size as i found it very comfortable for my daily activities.

I came across a designer Natalie Balmain who is doing great job designing cloths specifically for Type 1 diabetic. The purpose of the cloths is to give freedom to diabetic patients in term of injecting insulin through pens.

 

c. Frequent Blood Sugar Check
During summers your blood sugar can haywire.
Too much of sweating can increase your blood sugar and on the other hand doing some form of physical activity can give you hypoglycemic episodes.

That’s why it is very important to test your blood sugar.
This may increase your medical cost as you have to buy extra glucometer strips but nothing is more important than our health.

d. Onion Consumption
Don’t know about US but in India, Onion is the most common food commodities in the kitchen. Onions are used for preparation of Indian dishes and also also eaten in raw form for its taste.

According to a research, onion possess anti-diabetic property as it helps in lowering of blood sugar and is also helpful to protect the body from heat stroke and sunburn.

e. Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine drinks
These drink will let you urinate more which can further increase the risk of dehydration.

f. Protect your insulin supplies
Diabetes related medical supplies are highly sensitive to heat.
If the supplies are not kept in the suitable temperature range, the product then loose its effectiveness which render the product worthless.

Keeping in mind how expensive insulin is in United States, you will never want to waste a drop of it.

Unfortunately, some insurance companies require the insulin to be delivered from some other location. And more often than not the supplies gets damaged due to improper handling by the logistic companies.

Heat damage is not limited to insulin alone, even the pills and glucometer strips can easily gets damaged due to unfair heat treatment.

A research by The Endocrine Society concludes that ” diabetic individuals who live in a hot climate have important gaps in their “heat awareness,” or knowledge about proper diabetes self-care in hot weather, even though diabetes raises their risk of heat illness”

The purpose of the article is just to improve the knowledge of the diabetic patient so that they can live life complications free and enjoy each and every moment.

Further Readings
Can a diabetic patient get a tattoo?
Is diabetes a disability? what are the benefits?
Metformin sideeffects in Men

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