Diabetes: Staying healthy in the heat


When summer heats up, so does your risk of heat-related health issues – dehydration, heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Paying attention to the heat is especially important if you have a chronic illness such as diabetes. 

To Teresa Brown, there's nothing like a family game of backyard baseball.  Brown has type 1 diabetes. She has to be careful when the sun soars.

"If we know we're going to be doing anything active, then I need to plan ahead," she said.

"Diabetes patients are particularly susceptible to the heat. Not only do they have to worry about their health, they also have to worry about the impact of hot weather on their equipment, their medications and supplies," said Curtiss Cook, M.D. with the Mayo Clinic.

Curtiss Cook says dehydration can happen to diabetic patients quickly in hot weather.

"Because many times they lose their ability to cool themselves it the heat," he explained.

And high blood sugar levels also put them at risk of dehydration.

Brown explained, "If you get really warm and you're not hydrating like you need to - I think it gets blurry to tell – am I just feeling this way because I'm really warm, or am I feeling this way because something's going on with my blood sugar?"

So Brown stays hydrated, drinking plenty of water and checking her blood sugar before and after playing in the sun.

Brown is on an insulin pump that constantly delivers medication. It's essential that she keep her medication and equipment cool. Heat can damage the technology, even the test strips, and it can make insulin less effective.

"The insulin's going to break down and it's not going to work like it needs to in my body," Brown said.

Insulin helps Brown's body metabolize glucose – sugar. So she's vigilant and takes care to stay healthy in the heat.

Brown says she checks her blood sugar levels four to five times a day, no matter what the temperature. It takes time and diligence, but she knows careful monitoring will help keep her healthy. 

For more information on diabetes and staying healthy in the heat, go to mayoclinic.org or you can call the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville at (904) 953-2272.