With temperatures set to hit 40 °C across parts of the UK, people living with diabetes are being reminded about the dangers of hot weather.

Almost five million people in the UK have diabetes, a condition where the body cannot control blood sugar (glucose) levels.

If left unmanaged, excess blood glucose can cause serious short and long-term complications and increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Dan Howarth, Head of Care at Diabetes UK, said: “Sitting in the sun for long periods can affect your diabetes because you’re not being very active, making blood sugar levels higher than usual.

“On the flipside, if you take insulin to treat your diabetes, it will be absorbed more quickly from the injection site in warm weather, and this increases the risk of hypos.”

Hypo is short for hypoglycaemia which occurs when blood sugars fall too low. The heat can make symptoms of a hypo, such as tiredness, sweating and feeling dizzy harder to spot.

Depending on the severity of hypoglycaemia, it can be treated by consuming 15-20g of a fast-acting carbohydrate, such as glucose tablets, sweets, fizzy drinks or fruit juice.

People with diabetes who plan to spend time in the sun should increase the number of times they test their blood glucose levels and adjust their insulin intake accordingly.

Those who are going to be active during the hot weather should be extra vigilant and check their levels beforehand, eating something sugary if their glucose levels are low.

The heat can also affect equipment, with glucose monitors and test strips especially prone to damage.

Avoid putting your glucose monitor and test strips in direct sunlight and try to keep them at average room temperature.

If you travel to many hot countries, you might already be used to keeping your insulin cool, carrying it with you in a cool bag or carry case. However, with the current temperatures, it’s worth storing your insulin in the fridge, if you don’t already, as this will prevent heat damage.

High blood sugar levels might be due to heat-damaged insulin, which is often cloudy, with the liquid turning grainy and sticking to one side of its glass container.

You should avoid using this insulin and any insulin exposed to direct sunlight, which takes on a brown hue.

Finally, it’s vital that you compensate for any fluids lost through sweating by keeping hydrated and increasing your fluid intake. Dehydration can lead to higher blood glucose levels and hyperglycaemia.

What the Diabetes Community Are Saying About the Heat:

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