OoooOoooo it’s getting HOT in here. By here I mean the San Francisco Bay Area, which means that by HOT I mean a solid 75 degrees (at most). I’m blessed with the weather of the SF Bay but that does not mean when I spend all day under the sun, my Blood Glucose (BG) levels aren’t affected. You might find yourself in the heat a lot this summer with outdoor BBQ’s, beach picnics (my personal fave) or vacations to tropical areas! Here are some tips to enjoying the HEAT with Type 1 Diabetes.
HYDRATE + ELECTROLYTES
Dehydration can lead to high blood sugars, not necessarily meaning shooting straight up to 300mg/dL because you forgot to drink water with lunch but more so that sugars are less likely to budge. I find myself stuck at say 170mg/dL after trying a unit every couple hours but because of perspiration from the heat and a busy day where drinking water has slipped my mind. As Type 1 Diabetics, we lose water when experiencing high blood sugars leading us to be more susceptible to dehydration!
TIP: Have you seen those fun “hydration” tablets in the aisles of your grocery store? They’re usually by the water aisle or at Whole Foods - near the supplement section! I like the NUUN tablets, they are about 2g of carbs and give you electrolytes and make hydrating fun (or should I say, FUUN?) - when sweating in the summer heat, we lose a lot of electrolytes. Electrolytes are necessary for using our muscles and expensing energy so when we lose them via sweat and don’t replenish, the results can be fatigue, cramps, respiratory problems as well as how our body synthesizes glycogen for energy!
PREPARE FOR LOW BLOOD SUGAR
Although those with Type 1 Diabetes are more likely to experience stubborn sugars while in the heat- we’re also likely to see our BG levels plummet in the same conditions. We should know by now that we can’t really win, right? Well here’s how this part works. When in the summer sun and exerting energy- something as simple as walking will do, then our blood vessels expand allowing the insulin to flow through our bodies and process the sugar in our system faster. The extreme heat pretty much melts away my appetite but staying full, keeping snacks on hand can help curve the likelihood of a low blood sugar hitting you!
TIP: Having foods with equal parts fat/protein/carbs can prepare your sugars for the heat. I love a good ole apple with almond butter. An apple the size of you fist is around 25g carbs and then adding in some protein/healthy fats can sustain your sugars throughout the summer sun!
If swimming is on the agenda this summer, you might be disconnecting your insulin pump quite frequently. I wouldn’t (more so that I couldn’t) spend more than a half hour in the water without starting to feel lethargic from being disconnected from my insulin supply. This might be a great time to explore the idea of a “Pumpcation” - read about why I went on one a month ago here. By being on MDI (Multiple Daily Injections) I have a lot more freedom without worrying if my pump is overheating while it’s pushed up against my body during workouts, hiking etc. and not worrying about how long I’m in the water.
Please please talk to your doctor before disconnecting from the pump for the summer to make sure there aren’t any adjustments needed before this transition!
SHADE THOSE SUPPLIES
Insulin’s ideal temperature is 36 F - 46 F (2.2 C - 7.7 C). Once exposed to higher temperatures the insulin is still effective but eventually (and I mean a long exposure time to temps above 80 F), begins to break down it’s composition. This broken down insulin will not harm you like a poison, but will harm you in that it won’t take care of the BG levels - and could possibly result in the production of ketones.
Test strips are also susceptible to the heat! Who would’ve thunk? Inaccurate results are common once test strips have been exposed to excessive heat or humidity! Open the test strips, grab the strip you need and shut that baby right away!
TIP: Making sure your supplies stay out of direct sunlight (no, not under the seat of a car in the sun) is key to making sure your insulin stays at the optimal effectiveness. There are a few brands of insulin cooling cases that keep your vials at an ideal temperature during short trips, hikes, beach days like this reusable one from Frio. There is also an insulin thermometer called Med Angel ONE that you leave in the same case as your insulin and will notify you (via bluetooth connection to your phone) when the temperatures are becoming too extreme and dangerous for your insulin vials.
All products mentioned are linked to where you can find them on the interwebs, just click on the product and get prepped for Summer!
Have a fantastic summer, friends! Travel, hike, be active! These are all so intimidating with Type 1 Diabetes; worrying about low blood sugars and supplies but everything is feasible with T1D. A few extra steps have to be taken, and a few more seconds of thought put into things but this disease doesn't have to halt our FUN.