Diabetes and Heat

Vivien Williams: 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. Here’s what diabetics need to know about staying healthy in the heat.

Teresa Brown: I’ve got to give you a decent pitch.

Vivien Williams: To Teresa Brown, there’s nothing like a family game of backyard baseball.

Teresa Brown: Nice hit!

Vivien Williams: Teresa has type I diabetes. She has to be careful when the sun soars.

Teresa Brown: If we know we’re going to be doing something that’s going to be fairly active, then I need to plan ahead.

Curtiss Cook, M.D., Endocrinology, Mayo Clinic: Diabetes patients, in particular, are 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 their supplies.

Vivien Williams: Mayo Clinic doctor Curtis Cook says dehydration can happen to diabetic patients quickly in hot weather.

Dr. Cook: Many times, patients lose the ability to cool themselves in the heat.

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

Teresa Brown: And if you get really warm and you’re not hydrating like you need to, I think it gets blurry, as 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?

Vivien Williams: So Teresa stays hydrated–

Teresa Brown: Drink plenty of water.

Vivien Williams: –and checks her blood sugar before–

Teresa Brown: See, it’s actually high right now. It says 194.

Vivien Williams: –and after playing in the sun.

Teresa Brown: I’m doing good right now. This is good. I’m headed in the right direction.

Vivien Williams: Teresa’s 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.

Teresa Brown: Then the insulin can start to break down. And then it’s just not going to work like it needs to in my body.

Vivien Williams: Insulin helps Teresa’s body metabolize glucose, sugar.

Teresa Brown: It makes it more fun when you’ve got to work for it.

Vivien Williams: So she’s vigilant and takes care to stay healthy in the heat so she can pitch a perfect game to her family. Teresa 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 Medical Edge, I’m Vivien Williams.

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