Tips for summer safety for those with diabetes

June 29, 2017

Summer is in full swing here in Wilson, bringing with it the heat and humidity we enjoy each year! I guess that is the price we pay for being able to watch our crops, gardens and flowers bloom and grow. 

Summer is also a time to enjoy holiday celebrations, family vacations and longer days outside. It is easy to put diabetes care on the back burner while enjoying the summer months, but a little extra attention can help you stay safe while enjoying summer activities. 

Heat and increased outdoor activity can lead to dehydration, which may increase blood sugar levels. Sweating helps cool our bodies but causes extra fluid loss. This may result in higher blood sugar levels when you test. Drinking water throughout the day is the best way to combat this risk. Other beverages, such as sports drinks, sodas or juices, often contain sugar, sodium and caffeine that might raise blood sugar and increase fluid loss. 

Days on the beach or lake expose your skin and eyes to damaging sun rays. Hats, glasses and lightweight clothing can provide protection. Look for glasses that block UVA and UVB rays and wear them consistently. Sunscreen, when applied properly and used regularly, helps to protect skin from burns. Make sure to reapply after swimming or excessive sweating. Limiting time outside during the middle of the day also reduces risk of sun damage. Applying moisturizing skin lotions after bathing is also a good idea. 

Speaking of the beach, vacations and July Fourth celebrations are highlights of the summer. Party and cookout invitations bring on another type of concern for people with diabetes. Foods and drinks are abundant and it’s hard to turn down that special dessert or an extra hot dog. 

So how do you make good choices and still enjoy your meal? Check out all the options before you serve yourself. If vegetables or fruits are served, fill half your plate with these to help you feel full. Keep servings of carbohydrates palm sized. Choose a drink that is unsweetened or diet. 

Too many dessert choices? Try a spoon-sized serving of your favorites. Taking a walk between the meal and dessert is a great way to offset the rise in blood sugar and enjoy time with family or friends.

Speaking of walking, we are often more active during the summer, whether it’s sightseeing on a vacation, working in the garden or playing with kids outside. This is a great way to help reduce blood sugar and work toward a healthy weight. Most people should aim for 150 minutes each week of an activity you enjoy, such as walking or biking. 

Keep in mind that extra activity may cause blood sugar to be lower than usual if you are taking insulin or other medications to manage diabetes. Ask for direction from your provider if you are unsure how to adjust your insulin for extra activity.

Traveling with diabetes can also be easier with a little planning. Make sure you have enough medication and testing supplies for your entire trip. If you will be gone for long periods of time or far away from your provider, ask your pharmacist if refills can be obtained where you will be traveling. If not, ask your provider for a prescription “just in case.” 

When flying, make sure you keep necessary items with you. These should be in original containers, labeled and kept in a separate bag from other items. After inspection, all items are allowed on board (www.tsa.gov). 

Whether you plan a vacation or a stay-cation, I hope these tips will help you enjoy a safe and enjoyable summer! 

Need a physician? Call our Physician Referral Line at 1-800-424-DOCS (3627) to connect with one today.

Martha Gurley is a registered nurse and a certified diabetes educator at Wilson Medical Center. For more information about diabetes, contact Martha at 252-399-8673 or martha.gurley@wilmed.org.