How hot weather affects their levels and insulin efficacy.

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June finally arrives. We’ve packed our bags, prepped our passports, got the travel insurance but most importantly- meticulously packed a rather large carry on with a 4 months supply of diabetic necessities for a 2 week trip aboard a beautiful boat in Croatia. That’s right, we’re going on holiday and boy are we excited. We’ve prepared for the worst, so we feel confident that we’re safeguarded against any surprises that may come our way. 

Like I’ve mentioned before, we learn something new everyday with this condition, and this holiday was no exception. A week into our sailing trip, we found ourselves not on a boat, like we intended to be, but rather on a rollercoaster, trying to keep up with Eva’s oscillating levels. We like to float around the 8mmol/L mark but instead we were flying in the 18mmol/L area. What baffled us is that we kept her routine and carb ratio’s exactly the same as per normal. After a frustrating process of elimination, we arrived at the notion that it was the hot weather affecting Eva herself. (Europe at the time was going through a considerable heat wave).

TD1’s feel the heat more

What we didn’t know is that diabetic’s feel the heat more than people who don’t have diabetes. How is this? Firstly, the heat can increase blood sugar levels if they aren’t properly hydrated. And when they’re dehydrated, their blood glucose becomes more concentrated as there is a decrease in the blood flow in the kidneys, making it really difficult for the kidneys to rid itself of excess glucose through urine. Diabetics also get dehydrated more quickly than non-diabetics. If they aren’t drinking enough fluids, this can raise the blood sugar level, and as you may well know, high blood sugar makes you urinate more, causing further dehydration…and the vicious cycle ensues.

Secondly, the heat (and their activity) makes them sweat, which adds to the dehydration.

And lastly, dehydration reduces blood supply to the skin and as a result, the insulin you’re giving your Warrior gets absorbed less. Temperate skin absorbs insulin faster, while dehydrated skin absorbs insulin more slowly. The closer you can keep your injection site to normal temperature and hydration, the better. And this is why we weren’t seeing a marked difference in her levels, even with us increasing the dosages all the time.

Some tips to weather the weather

I wish we’d known this prior to our trip, but at least I can share these helpful tips with you when you think about going to a place where the temperature is higher than normal:

  • High temperatures can change how their body uses insulin. You may need to test your Warrior’s blood sugar more often than usual, especially around active periods. Ask your doctor if you need help in adjusting their dosage.
  • Give them loads of water—even if they’re not thirsty—so they don’t get dehydrated.
  • Avoid drinks with caffeine or sports drinks or act as diuretics. Watch out for milk and caffeinated teas as well. They can lead to water loss and spike their blood sugar levels. 
  • Opt for loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing.
  • Lay on the sunscreen. Sunburn can raise their blood sugar levels as well.
  • Know the signs of heat exhaustion. Warrior’s have a greater risk of heat exhaustion because diabetes can affect the ability to sweat. If you don’t sweat, you can’t stay cool. Symptoms of heat exhaustion are similar to hypoglycemia (low blood glucose): dizziness, fainting and confusion.

And don’t forget the insulin feels the heat as well!

  • Don’t store insulin in direct sunlight or in a hot car. The same applies for diabetic supplies and equipment. Check package information about how high temperatures can affect their medication. Keep the insulin in a cooler bag but not on ice. Extreme heat or cold can affect test results and tamper with their efficacy.

Above all, don’t feel the need to lock your Warrior up indoors. Armed with a little preparation and knowledge-TD1’s can have just as much fun in the sun!


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