Diabetes and Heat: Can Hot Weather & Humidity Affect Blood Sugar?

Hot weather and diabetes can be a challenging mix. When the temperature rises, it's important to take precautions to control your blood sugar levels. This blog post will discuss how hot weather and humidity can affect diabetes and what you need to do to stay safe. We'll also cover ways to prevent heat exhaustion if you have diabetes. Stay cool!

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Diabetes and the Heat

It's a topic often discussed during the summer months, but it's important to know the facts no matter the time of year. When the weather gets hot and humid, it's essential to be aware of how diabetes can be affected. High temperatures and humidity (especially during travel) can cause blood sugar levels to rise and fall rapidly. A temperature rise stimulates the absorption of insulin. So you'll need to take precautions like testing your blood sugar levels frequently to make sure your diabetes is under control.

How Does Heat Affect Blood Sugar Levels in People with Diabetes

Hot weather and heat can cause dehydration, which can, in turn, cause blood sugar levels to rise. When you sweat, you lose not only water but also electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. These need to be replaced in order to maintain proper fluid balance in the body. If you're not adequately hydrated, your blood sugar levels will start to rise. This is why it's so important to drink plenty of fluids when the weather is hot, even if you're not thirsty.

Does heat lower blood sugar?

Heat can indeed cause blood vessels to dilate, which can, in turn, create low blood sugar levels, but this effect is usually only temporary. In most cases, the opposite is true: hot weather and diabetes can cause blood sugar levels to rise. Make sure you test your blood sugar levels more often.

Can heat make your blood sugar go up?

Yes, heat can cause your blood glucose levels to rise and make your blood sugar levels fluctuate more.

What to do to Stay Safe in the Heat

The sun can be hot, and it's always better to stay prepared, so here are a few tips to help you stay safe in the heat:

  • Wear loose, light-colored clothing and a hat or visor to protect yourself from the sun.

  • Drink plenty of fluids, even if you're not thirsty. Avoid alcohol and sugary drinks.

  • Stay in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible.

  • If you must be outside, take breaks in the shade or cool down.

  • Monitor your blood sugar levels frequently.

  • Make sure you use an insulin cooler to keep your medication safe.

  • Use sunscreen to protect yourself from a strong UV index.

Preventing Heat Exhaustion if You Have Diabetes

Heat exhaustion is a condition that can occur when you are exposed to high temperatures for too long, especially if you are not used to the heat or if you are exercising. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include tiredness, weakness, headache, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. If not treated promptly, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which is a medical emergency. If you have diabetes, you are at increased risk for heat exhaustion and should take extra precautions to stay cool and hydrated.

If you have diabetes, it's important to be aware of the symptoms of heat exhaustion. These include:

  • Heavy sweating

  • Paleness

  • Muscle cramps

  • Tiredness or weakness

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

If you experience any of these symptoms, it's important to stop what you're doing and get out of the heat immediately. Drink plenty of fluids and seek medical help if necessary.

Can humidity affect diabetes?

Humidity often comes along with hot weather, and it can have an impact on diabetes as well. High humidity can make it harder for your body to cool down, which can lead to heat exhaustion. Humidity can also cause mold and mildew to grow, triggering allergies and asthma attacks. If you have diabetes and live in a humid climate, be sure to take extra precautions to stay cool and avoid allergens.

Humidity and extreme heat can also damage your glucose monitor, insulin pump, test strips, insulin, and other medical equipment.

Tips for managing diabetes in summer and hot weather

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Keep your insulin cool

When having diabetes, one of the most important medications is insulin. You must keep it cool during the summer months (room temperature between 68°F and 77°F and in a refrigerator at approximately 36°F to 46°F), as heat can damage the medication. Insulin should be stored in a fridge or an insulin cooler. The 4AllFamily Nomad insulin cooler is an excellent solution for travelers and diabetics that like to be outdoors. 

Related article: How to travel with refrigerated medications?

Stay hydrated

It's important to drink plenty of fluids when it's hot outside, even if you're not thirsty. The best fluids to drink are water and unsweetened beverages like water, tea, or coffee. Avoid sugary drinks, alcohol, and caffeinated beverages, as they can cause dehydration.

Check your blood sugars

It's important to check your blood sugars more frequently when it's hot outside. This will help you to catch any highs or lows early and prevent them from becoming dangerous. Make sure you adapt your insulin dose to your fluctuating blood glucose levels.

Protect from the sun

Protect your blood sugar monitor, insulin pump, insulin, and other diabetes equipment from heat, humidity, and direct sunlight. Please don't leave them in your car, by the pool, in the sun, or on the beach. This way, your insulin gets spoiled, and your equipment might get damaged.

Don't forget to protect yourself from the sun and wear sunscreen with a high SPF. Wear loose, light clothing and a hat or visor to protect yourself from the sun.

Wear appropriate shoes

Don't forget to wear appropriate shoes when it's hot outside. This means closed-toe shoes that are comfortable and provide good support. Avoid wearing open sandals or flip-flops as they offer little support and can lead to foot problems.

Related article: 10 Tips for Hiking with Diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2)

Avoid the heat if possible

If it's possible to avoid the heat, do so. Stay indoors in air-conditioned buildings as much as possible. If you must be outside, take breaks in the shade or cool down with a fan or cold compress.

Related article: How to shower or swim with an insulin pump?

Conclusion

When the temperature and humidity rise, people with diabetes need to take extra care to maintain control of their blood sugar levels. High heat can cause blood sugar levels to spike, so it's important to stay hydrated, monitor your blood sugars regularly, and avoid prolonged exposure to the sun and heat.

If you feel overheated or exhausted, seek shade or air conditioning immediately and call your doctor if necessary. With a bit of planning and preparation, you can safely enjoy all that summer has to offer!

Hot weather can be tough on diabetes, but following the above tips can stay safe and enjoy the summer sun.

Do you have any tips for managing diabetes in hot weather? Let us know in the comments below.

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