Diabetes and Hot Weather - Staying Safe in the Heat

There are hypo and hyper risks in hot weather
There are hypo and hyper risks in hot weather

Whether you are going on holiday or simply spending some time outdoors in the heat, high temperatures and the close humidity currently sweeping the UK do have an influence for people with long term conditions such as diabetes.

This may partly be explained by increased activity in hot weather, but there is no doubt that the heat does affect some people with diabetes in other ways.

What problems can hot weather cause for people with diabetes?

Dehydration can be an issue in hot weather, and higher blood glucose levels can further increase this risk.

People with diabetes may need to increase their intake of fluids in hot weather, drinking water regularly through the day.

One of the major concerns regarding diabetes and hot weather is the risk of blood sugar levels rising or falling and causing hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia.

What are the hypo risks from hot weather?

Hot weather can increase the risk of hypoglycemia for those on blood glucose lowering medication.

The Joslin Diabetes Centre notes that the body’s metabolism is higher in hot and humid weather which can lead to an increased chance of hypoglycemia.

Hypos may be slightly harder to spot in hot weather.

Don’t be tempted to disregard hypo symptoms, such as sweating and tiredness, as a result of hot weather as it could be a sign of hypoglycemia.

Take extra care when driving and test your blood sugar before and after each journey and stop regularly to check your blood sugar if taking longer journeys.

To prevent hypos, be prepared to test your blood glucose more often, particularly if taking part in physical activity in hot weather.

Keep a source of fasting carbohydrate, such as glucose tablets, to hand.

To help treat hypos, buy glucose products from the Diabetes Shop.

You may need to adjust your insulin levels during changes in temperature. If you are experiencing higher or lower blood sugar levels and need advice about adjusting your insulin levels, speak with a member of your healthcare team.

What are the symptoms of heat exhaustion?

The NHS notes that people with diabetes are at higher risk for heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion can occur if you get very hot and lose water and/or salts from the body.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Sweating more than usual
  • Dizziness
  • Cramping muscles
  • Clammy skin
  • Headaches
  • Fast heartbeat and
  • Nausea.

By resting away from the glare of the sun and drinking more water you can avoid heat exhaustion.

What about hot weather and medicine?

When carrying diabetes supplies which need to be kept cool, such as insulin, the heat of summer can be a problem.

Get around this by keeping your medication away from direct sunlight and carrying cooling packs, which keep medication cool.

Blood testing in hot weather

Test strips are sensitive to temperature as well. Test your blood sugar in a cool, shaded place and keep your test strips away from direct sunlight as well.

With good preparation, there is no reason why hot weather can’t be a real pleasure!

What the community are saying about diabetes and hot weather

  • Stuartclose: Well, it's happening again, as soon as the weather gets hot my blood sugar goes sky high. Normally my range is between 5.5 - 7.0, nowadays with the temperatures soaring I have been hitting 12-14, my consultant says I'm intolerant to heat - does anyone else have these symptoms?
  • Cugila: Hot weather and lack of food can be one of the causes of a hypo in anybody, your body is using up the stored glucose in your body which then gives out warning signals that you are getting too low. When you feel odd that is your body telling you in effect... I need some food, some fuel as my tank is running low.
  • Leather_Ferret: I'm on Lantus (35 units/day) and Novorapid 30 - 40 units depending on food intake. For a couple of weeks of hot weather, I was struggling to keep readings down to 8 or 9 however much insulin I threw at it, whereas normally I can average about 6 over the day. After a bit of thought, I binned the current pens and started fresh ones out of the fridge, and now store the pens I am using in the fridge too. Instant result - situation normal again. Anyone else been having problems in the hot weather?
  • Phoenix: I use far less insulin in the heat and have to use temp basals (-50% ) for even short walks and I suspended my pump this afternoon whilst gardening in 30+C and was still below 4 mmol/l for dinner. I think it's more common than to use less.
  • SophiaW: I haven't really noticed much difference with Jess. She did have a series of hypos a few weeks back during that first spell of warmer weather but it all seems to have settled itself now. It might be that the children are more active in the playground now with the warmer weather?
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