It is a bit of a running joke among those of us in the diabetes community that the way something will affect your blood sugar is dependant on the way the wind is blowing. You can do the exact same thing, eat the same foods and take the same amount of insulin and get wildly different results. No 2 people are the same, and no 2 days are the same.
There are some generalisations you can make though. As a rule, exercise will lower your blood glucose….. unless it is weight training in which case it will raise it. Stress and illness tend to raise your blood glucose, but heat plays a part in lowering it.
As with all things, there are steps you can take to mitigation the effects. One field I have quite a big of experience in is heat.
That might surprise you, considering we live in the North East of Scotland. But rest assured I have done my research in the form of holidays abroad, as well as the odd day of sunshine here or there at home.
I’ve got 5 tips that should help keep your hypos to a minimum and make for more fun in the sun:
Please note I am not a medical professional. Your diabetes my vary. Discuss changes with your medical team before making them.
1. Reduce Your Basal Insulin
The theory behind this is that, for many of us, the heat increases the speed at which the insulin works. In addition, if the weather is nice then you’re more likely to get outside and be active, which in turn lowers your blood glucose level. One way of combating the lows is to reduce your basal (or background) insulin.
If you are on a pump this is pretty easy. Just pop on a temporary basal rate and carry on with your day. The amount is purely trial and error though I’m afraid. You may want to start with 90% and if you still finding yourself teetering on the edge of a hypo then knock it down to 80%, and so on.
On MDI (multiple daily injections) this becomes a little more tricky. With the way British weather is, you can’t always be sure of warm weather sticking around. If you take less basal insulin sods law says the sun will disappear 5 minutes later! It can be done though if you are confident about the heat. In general, it may be a more useful tactic for us on holidays abroad.
2. Reduce Bolus
As with basal, generally reducing your bolus insulin is a good way avoiding pesky lows. When snacking on ice creams and other icy treats it can be easy to stack insulin, resulting in a hard crash. Consider changing you bolus ratios.
One other solution is to have additional snacks with no bolus. I’ll admit I choose this option quite regularly, but there is the concern that you forget to snack and end up going low. Better safe than sorry!
3. Keep Insulin Cool
Insulin is not designed to be out in the sun all day. If it over heats it can stop working, leaving you with high blood sugars that won’t shift no matter how many correct doses you give.
4. Test Regularly
It goes without saying really, but the only way to know what your blood glucose levels are doing is to keep an eye on them. Guess work is where you will make errors, it is best to have up to date information to work from.
5. Keep Cool
The best way to minimise the effects of heat on your blood glucose levels is to keep cool. Avoid sitting out in the direct sun, stay hydrated with plenty water and stay out of the heat in the middle of the day.
Do you have any tips for coping with diabetes in the heat? Leave them in the comments below.
Why not join our Facebook Group which is hub for women with all different types of diabetes. It is a safe place to ask questions, share knowledge and be open about how you are coping.
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