The heat being experienced in many parts of the nation these days is tough enough for the average healthy person, but for the estimated 21 million Americans with diabetes, special precautions may be required, according to experts at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.
"People with chronic diseases like diabetes as well as people taking certain medications, including heart disease medications and diuretics, which are often used to treat complications of diabetes, are at increased risk of experiencing difficulties in the heat, even though they may not be aware of it," says Catherine Carver, M.S., A.N.P., C.D.E, Director of Educational Services at Joslin Clinic.
Carver and her colleagues at Joslin Clinic offer the following tips for people with diabetes during these steamy summer days:
— Keep hydrated. Dehydration, or the loss of body fluids, can happen on these very hot summer days whether you have diabetes or not. If you have diabetes, dehydration also can occur when blood glucose is not under control. When blood glucose is elevated, this can lead to an increase in the body's excretion of urine. To prevent dehydration drink plently of caffeine-free fluids such as water, seltzer, sugar-free drinks like iced tea, and lemonade. Limit your intake of alcohol.
— Watch for signs of heat exhaustion, especially if you are working or exercising outdoors. People with diabetes and other chronic diseases like heart disease are more susceptible to overheating. Symptoms include: feeling dizzy or fainting; sweating excessively; muscle cramps; skin that is cold or clammy; headaches; rapid heartbeat; and/or nausea. If you experience any of these symptoms, move to a cooler environment, drink fluids like water, juice or sports drinks (based on your healthcare provider's instructions) and seek medical attention.
— Exercise in a cool place such as an air-conditioned gym, or early in the morning or later in the evening.
— Check blood glucose levels at least four times a day, and more often if you are not feeling well. Remember that heat can cause blood glucose levels to fluctuate. Carry plenty of water and snacks.
— Store your blood glucose meter, strips and insulin in a cool, dry place. Do not store insulin in extreme temperatures. Never store insulin in the freezer, direct sunlight or in the car or in the glove compartment of the car. Examine your vial of insulin. Clear insulin (Regular, Humalog, Novolog, Apidra, Lantus, Levimir) should remain clear. NPH insulin should not have any clumping or "frosting" on the vials
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