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Extreme Heat And Diabetes

Posted in: General Health 23 Jul, 2013

With the U.K experiencing soaring temperatures not seen since the summer of 2006, there should be cause for celebration as the BBQ invites begin to gather momentum. Yet, with celebration, there should come a sense of precaution; especially when managing extreme heat and diabetes.

What can be described as extreme heat?

Extreme heat is when temperatures begin to rise above the 80°F (approximately 27°C) mark with 40% humidity or above, as indicated by the national heat index. The higher the humidity percentage, the more difficult perspiration (sweating) becomes. Perspiration is what helps to keep us cool when we experience extreme heat conditions.

However, the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service, conducted 152 surveys from patients at a Phoenix diabetes clinic. The results from the survey were startling, as 1 in 5 patients claimed that until it was more than 100 degrees, only then, would they begin to take precautions to cope with extreme heat and diabetes.

What are the dangers of ignoring extreme heat conditions and how does it affect my diabetes?

The dangers of not taking the correct precautions to manage extreme heat and diabetes can lead to a rise in glucose levels. Furthermore, a diabetic can also become rapidly dehydrated leading to the possibility of increased blood sugar levels. Dr. Adrienne Nassar, researcher at the Mayo Clinic, explains "People with diabetes have an impaired ability to sweat, which predisposes them to heat-related illness, as do uncontrolled, high blood sugars."

Furthermore, those at the greatest risk during extreme heat conditions are over 65s and those that suffer from chronic diseases like diabetes. Curtiss B. Cook MD, FACP, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine stated, "Studies have shown that during heat waves, patients with diabetes have more hospitalizations, more emergency room visits, and higher rates of mortality."

What can be done to cope with the heat and manage my diabetes?

Correct precautions should always be taken when managing extreme heat and even more so in the case of diabetics. Here, we have compiled a list of precautions that one should take in order to manage such extreme heat and diabetes:

  • Drinks lots of water - Although it may be an obvious point to make, keeping hydrated during extreme heat conditions is of extra importance, as dehydration can occur when blood glucose level is not under control. Simply remembering to carry a refillable water bottle will help to keep you hydrated.
  • Look after your medicine correctly - More often than not, extreme heat conditions can have an adverse effect on medicine. Medicine and equipment such as, insulin, glucose meters and strips, should always be kept in a cool dry place. Carrying an insulated bag with you would greatly help in allowing your medicine and equipment to remain safe.
  • Limit your alcohol intake - Although this may be easier said than done, especially when at a lovely summer BBQ, controlling your alcohol intake will help to keep you hydrated. The levels of sugar in alcohol mean that vital body fluids are lost. By simply drinking in moderation, you can help your body to retain a greater balance in fluids.

By taking these simple and practical steps, you can help ensure that your summer can be spent safely in the heat.

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