Whether you’re going on holiday or simply spending time outdoors in the sun, high temperatures and close humidity can affect your health if you have a long term condition, such as diabetes.
With more than one in 17 people in the UK affected by diabetes, it’s important to know how to manage your condition in the hot weather.
People with diabetes can be affected in different ways by the heat. It can cause blood sugar levels to rise (hyperglycemia) or fall (hypoglycemia - hypos).
If you or a loved one has diabetes, it’s important to know the symptoms to look out for to avoid hypos, which can end up spoiling your fun.
It’s important to understand that long periods of inactivity in the hot weather can make blood glucose levels higher than usual. And if someone is taking insulin it is absorbed more quickly from the injection site so the skin has an increased blood supply which makes the likelihood of hypos greater.
Once you understand the symptoms of high and low blood sugar, it is possible to test and remedy quickly and avoid serious problems. Keeping to a clear target range is one of the key goals of diabetes management. Knowing when you have the symptoms of high or low blood sugar levels allows you to test your blood sugar and make any corrections.
Hypos may be slightly harder to spot in hot weather, so don’t be tempted to disregard symptoms, such as sweating and tiredness, or simply attribute it to hot weather, as it could be a sign of low blood sugar. With good preparation and by following a few simple steps, there is no reason why diabetes should stop you enjoying the good weather.
To help prevent a hypo you need to keep hydrated so make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day. Take extra care when you are driving by testing your blood sugar before and after each journey, and stop regularly to check your blood sugar if you are taking longer journeys.
Test your blood glucose more often, particularly if you are taking part in physical activity, such as swimming or walking in hot weather. Make sure you always carry a source of fasting carbohydrate, such as glucose tablets or other glucose rich foods in case your blood sugar levels drop.
You may need to adjust your insulin levels during changes in temperature. If you’re experiencing higher or lower blood sugar levels and need advice about adjusting your insulin dose, speak with a member of your healthcare team.
It’s worth noting that test strips are sensitive to temperature, so test your blood sugar in a cool, shaded place and keep your test strips away from direct sunlight.
If you’re worried about diabetes symptoms and need further advice you can call NHS 111. This service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All you have to do is dial 111 to talk to the NHS.