Ah Summer. It's coming and it's the season I love the most! I love the sunshine, I love the way the world seems to glow, I love how people seem to be happier when the skies are clear and blue.
Saying that, if there’s ever a season I experience the so called rollercoaster of diabetes the most, it’s during this time.
Half the day I’m spending it chasing hypos if I’m in the sunshine, the other half im chasing after the rebound highs, no matter how correctly I treat the hypo. It can be difficult! But 15 years on the job (yes, type one diabetes is like a full time job!) and Ive definitely picked up some tips that help me enjoy the summer to the MAX, because there’s no reason why we can’t do summer + diabetes well.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
Dehydration can happen to anyone during the hot weather, especially somebody with type one diabetes as high blood sugars can dehydrate you even further.
Being dehydrated can mean higher blood sugars as there is more concentrated sugar in your blood.
I try to up my intake of fluids during hot days…and for me, this is hard because I’m not a huge fan of plain water. I set phone alarms, to remind me to drink.
I buy sugar free flavoured waters. I infuse water with slices of lemon, for that extra touch of zing. It really helps! And I definitely find my sugars remain a lot calmer when I'm full of water!
KEEP YOUR INSULIN COOL!
This is a huge must! Trust me, I know, I've made the faux-pas myself. Anything over 30 degrees celsius is too hot for insulin.
(I use Tresiba and Novorapid, but other insulins might have lower or higher requirements).
There are lots of products on the market created to help keep your insulin cool, and whatever you pick it’s worth the investment. (I’ll round up some of my faves in a post soon!) If insulin is not kept in the right environment or within its correct temperatures, it can lose its effectiveness.
Imagine you are injecting water instead of insulin…it has THAT kind of effect and nobody wants that! I always keep my insulin out of direct sunlight, and make sure I have some sort of ice pack or cooling device with my insulin during the hotter weather to keep it safe. If I’m travelling, I make sure that my unused, unopened insulin goes straight from their cooling travel pack to the hotel fridge….its the first thing I do, after all…nobody wants spoiled insulin on holiday!
Keep an “extra eye” on your blood sugars.
I know, I know….MAJOR EYE ROLL. As if we don’t already take up all our time taking care of blood sugars…now we gotta be extra alert? Gosh, so needy.
During the hot weather, I often feel sweaty, fatigued if i’m lounging around in the sun and generally have a feeling of lightheadedness if i’ve been in the sun too long. Sound familiar? Yep, these sound exactly like the symptoms of a low. I find that in the summer, It's harder to catch my hypo’s early on, so I make sure that i'm testing frequently and watching the trend.
If you have a flash glucose monitoring system, or a CGM - then even better! As somebody who uses the freestyle libre, I really have no excuse but to keep a close eye on those shoots!
Carry hypo snacks
Never go anywhere without hypo snacks at hand. This is a general rule for life anyway, but especially in the summer. For me, I suffer from lows during the heat. (Amidst those pesky highs too.) In hot and humid weather, the body metabolises faster.
This means, the absorption of insulin is increased, which can lead to those awful lows that leave you with an awful hypo hangover afterwards. I find my lows in the summer a lot more resilient than normal.
They take longer to subside, and they hit me quite quickly! By having hypo snacks on me always, I can react quickly!
My fave hypo treat is a banana or jelly babies because they are super quick in action and super tasty :)
Follow patterns and listen to your body
The heat can affect your blood sugars in different ways. Some people battle highs, some people battle constant lows, and some people ride the rollercoaster all summer long. Either way, I find I need to listen and observe more than usual. I try to note down any patterns i'm noticing in terms of blood sugars and trends.
Personally, I find I require a lot less insulin during the summer…especially initially when the heat first hits. Because I know this, I reduce my doses and basal insulin early on in preparation. I tend to need a snack in the afternoon to keep from going low, and I can get away with a lot more carbs than usual! I always note these things down in a book or on my phone, so I can remind myself of the changes I need to make and when I need to make them. Boy, who said diabetes was simple!?
Consider the change in your lifestyle during the summer. You may be more active without even realising it. You may take more walks. You may find your sleeping patterns might change as you might go to bed later since its lighter out.
All these little changes can affect the blood sugar so I find it important to keep an eye out on how my daily routine is changing. I generally need a little less insulin during the day as I find that i'm more active and i’m burning more energy. Turns out during the winter I'm quite a lazy bum, but the sunshine lures me out of hiding! I try to remember this, for when I'm making decisions about my blood sugar control.
Thats all folks! These are my top tips that I follow to make sure I can rock both my blood sugars AND summer days equally! Theres no reason why one should ruin the other! What are your summer tips for diabetes in the sun!??