Summertime is here and it can be easy to stay well with a few tips to keep you focused on your general health and diabetes. Summer heat can be a big problem when you take diuretics or heart medicines which are common for people with diabetes. Uncontrolled blood sugars are more dangerous in the hot months since it can increase your chances of dehydration even more. Let’s look at some tips to help you stay safe and cool this summer.
- Stay hydrated. It is easy for anyone to become dehydrated in the summer but the risk goes up if you have high blood sugars or take water pills. Water pills are meant to pull excess fluid from your body. Elevated blood sugars can cause an increase in urination and more dehydration. Always drink beverages that are caffeine free since caffeine further dehydrates or sugar free to get the best results for blood sugar and hydration. Drink water, flavored zero calorie seltzer, calorie free drops, unsweetened decaffeinated tea, decaffeinated ice coffee or diet sodas. There has been some controversy about diet sodas in the news lately so try to drink them in moderation. Avoid or limit alcohol which also increases dehydration. Remember to drink before you feel thirsty since thirst is a late indicator of fluid needs. There is no magic amount such as 8 glasses of fluid but try to drink throughout the day. Talk to your physician if you are on a fluid restriction especially during the summer months. Ice chips under your tongue can help cool you down when over heated.
- Garden or exercise outdoors in the early morning or evening. Working or walking outside between the hours of 10:00AM and 4:00PM may add to the risk of becoming over-heated or heat exhaustion. Symptoms of heat exhaustion may include dizziness, fainting, heavy perspiration, fatigue, a weak thready pulse, muscle cramps, cold or clammy skin, headaches, nausea or a fast/irregular heartbeat. Be smart and avoid the problem by going to a gym, clubhouse, community center, big box store, indoor mall or purchase home exercise equipment. Take an indoor dance class, Zumba class or buy DVDs to use at home.
- Be aware of how you store medications and diabetes equipment. Meters and diabetes supplies should never be left in a vehicle; this is especially important during the hot summer months. Extreme heat or cold will affect the function of the meter equipment. Insulin should be stored between 36-86 F degree temperatures. It is safe to store your open insulin bottles or pens at room temperature (unopened insulin always stays in the refrigerator) if you use air-conditioning during the summer. If no air-conditioning is used or available, store open and closed insulin in the refrigerator. Keeping insulin above 86 degrees can reduce the potency and its ability to lower blood sugars. Travel with insulin in an insulated bag and cold pack to keep it cool and protected. Make sure the insulin is not touching the cold pack and that it never freezes.
- For those that use insulin pumps, hot weather will cause more perspiration which may affect how the adhesive secures the infusion set. There are skin barrier preparations including Skin- TAC, adhesive wipes, or Mastisol. Another method to keep the infusion set secure is placing antiperspirant or tincture of benzoin to the skin prior to placement.
- Wear breathable and wicking fabrics. Clothing should allow sweat to evaporate quickly. People with diabetes are much more at risk for fungal infections which can increase when skin stays moist. Look for active clothing that has a SPF factor built into the garments. This is more common in active wear. Wear a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses for best summer protection. Direct sun exposure to the eyes can increase your risks of future cataracts. Wear socks with mixed blended fibers, both cotton and synthetic, which allow for perspiration and wicking at the same time. Feet that are constantly damp from perspiration are more at risk for foot and nail fungus. Check feet daily to identify any problems early on. Try cornstarch or foot powder between toes to limit perspiration. Take a break from nail polish on your toes during the summer which can also increase fungus. Wear sunscreen SPF 30+ daily, not just when going to the beach or sun bathing. Try not to sunbathe in direct sunlight for more than fifteen minutes-enough to absorb some vitamin D.
Allergies can also be a huge problem for some people during the summer months with grass pollen and mold spores being at the highest levels between June and August. Summer allergy symptoms often include a runny or stuffy nose, watery and swollen eyes, sneezing, coughing and clear mucus. These can occur due to allergens in the air. Let’s look at some simple tips to help summer allergy sufferers.
Common summer allergies are mold, dust mites and grass pollen. Temperature, wind and rain can affect grass pollen levels. Mold can accumulate on grass, dead leaves and grains. August is the peak of mold spores due to the high heat and humidity. Keep your windows closed and the A/C on. Think about purchasing a HEPA filter.
- OTC remedies. If symptoms are mild, stick to over-the-counter products. Use eye rinses, wash your face frequently or use cold compresses which all can remove allergens. Cold compresses also relieve swelling and itching. Purchase OTC anti-histamines that are non sedating .Use saline drops to rinse out nose allergens. Some people are sensitive to anti-histamines and they may increase blood pressure or heart rates.
- Prescription medications. People who suffer from severe allergies or asthma may require prescription medications, eye drops, nasal sprays and inhalers. Remember these often contain steroids or cortisone which can increase blood sugars. Be aware that allergies may make it easier to get a sinus infection. Watch alcohol intake which could cause a sedating affect along with these medications
- Hats & Sunglasses. Use them to keep allergens away from your face, eyes and head. Wash your face when you go inside and change your shirt to reduce allergens. Pollen counts tend to be higher in the morning so if highly allergic, stay inside during those hours. Stay inside on windy days since the wind blows around allergens.
- Never smoke. Obviously smoking has many negatives but it also irritates the internal nose, airways and lungs.
- Allergy shots. If these measures do not help talk to your physician about allergy shots which desensitize you to the allergens; this is called immunotherapy.
Summer traveling without carrying food can be a huge problem especially if there are traffic jams, delayed flights, flat tires or other unexpected problems. Travel with snacks that do not spoil. Always carry glucose tablets for blood sugar lows.
A few more tips:
- Unsalted nuts and seeds mixed with 2 tablespoons of dried fruit in portion size bags are a perfect snack.
- Regular fruit pre-cut or a banana, apple or peach with a handful of nuts are good choices. Other choices could include ½ of a nut butter sandwich, 15 small pretzels, 3 cups of popcorn unbuttered, a 100-calorie granola bar, no-syrup fruit cups, small packs of tuna with wheat crackers or hummus spread with cut up vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain a high percentage of water which helps with hydration. Remember to keep fruits in portion size since they count as a carbohydrate. Great choices include zucchini, squash, cucumbers, celery, peaches, watermelon, melons, green grapes or cherries.
- When grilling, cook shish-ke-bobs which contains a small serving of meat with lots of vegetables.
Summer is all about relaxing and making time for fun with family and friends. The pace changes so be prepared to have the best and safest summer ever!
Here are just a few common foods to be aware of when making choices in your daily life. Moderation is important so if you really want to continue with these choices, at least do so in limited portions. Enjoy!
NOTE: Consult your Doctor first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.
She is a member of the American Diabetes Association as well as the South Florida Association of Diabetes Educators. She worked with the education department of NBMC to help educate the hospital's in-patient nurses about diabetes. She practices a healthy lifestyle and has worked as a personal fitness trainer in the past.
She was one of the initiators of the North Broward Diabetes Center (NBMC) which started in 1990 and was one of the first American Diabetes Association (ADA) certified programs in Broward County, Florida for nearly two decades. Robbie has educated patients to care for themselves and has counseled them on healthy eating, heart disease, high lipids, use of glucometers, insulin and many other aspects of diabetes care. The NBMC Diabetes Center received the Valor Award from the American Diabetes Center for excellent care to their patients. Robbie has volunteered over the years as leader of many diabetes support groups.