The affect of summer on blood sugar

Summer, heat, and humidity have arrived in Chicago! I love this time of year, but as a person with diabetes, I need to take special care when it gets hot.

For myself and many people with diabetes, managing blood sugar in the summer is a juggling act! I, personally, have trouble with low blood sugars, but this isn’t the case for everyone. We may experience high OR low blood sugars when it’s warm.

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) may occur more often due to: unplanned activity, increased metabolism, and being less likely to recognize signs of low blood sugar.

When the weather is nice, we walk, play games, swim, bike, etc. If we don’t adjust medications or food, we may get a low blood sugar. Different types of activity affect people in different ways. For me, swimming lowers my blood sugar most; so, if I plan on swimming, I lower my insulin and/or have a carbohydrate-snack.

Heat may also increase metabolism, which can increase how quickly sugar is taken out of the blood. But, if we don’t have enough insulin, or if our body doesn’t use insulin efficiently, then the sugar stays in the blood. Doses may need adjusting when the weather is hot, but talk to your doctor about whether or not you need less medication, and contact me for ways to prevent and treat low blood sugar.

Recognizing hypoglycemia is hard in the summer because signs of lows (sweating, fatigue, dizziness) are easily mistaken for overheating. If you feel “funny”, remember that we are better safe than sorry! Check your blood sugar often, always have quick sugar available, and avoid skipping meals on hot days.

While some of us struggle with hypoglycemia, others experience hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) when it’s hot. This may be due to increased stress, or medication problems.

Sunburn stresses the body, triggering a “fight or flight” response. One of the body’s first actions is to put sugar in the blood, in case we need quick energy. So, wear sunscreen to protect your skin, but also to avoid possible high blood sugar.

Some medications don’t work as well (if at all) in heat, increasing risk of highs. Insulin is protein, which breaks down in heat. For those wearing insulin pumps, consider a cooling case or wrap a wet t-shirt around the pump to prevent overheating. Always store insulin in a cool place, and if you notice high blood sugars that are not corrected with sliding scale doses, you may need to open a new (cool) bottle of insulin.

Dehydration is common in summer, and high blood sugar increases this risk. Like anyone spending a day in the sun, those of us with diabetes need to stay hydrated. While we are all ready for a break from winter, always keep in mind that change affects all bodies differently.

So, does summer affect the blood sugar? Well, maybe. Some may have low blood sugar, some high, and other may see no change at all. Any time the body goes through something different, there is a risk for blood sugar changes, but how your body reacts is individual. Know your body, prepare for anything, and contact me for tips on avoiding high and low blood sugar and ways to keep your regimen as consistent as possible while also enjoying the summer and unplanned events and surprises!


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