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How the Heat Affects Diabetes


If you have diabetes, you need to be careful in the heat. Everyone has to be careful in the heat, for that matter, but people with diabetes can be more susceptible to heat-related illnesses. Research has shown that when you have diabetes, you're more likely to have damage to your sweat glands. This means that if your core body temperature rises, you may not be able to regulate your temperature by sweating efficiently. This is true even if you're sitting still in very hot weather.

Here are some heat-related illnesses you could be prone to when the heat and humidity are at their peak this summer:

Heat exhaustion

  • Symptoms: heavy sweating, weakness; cold, pale, and clammy skin; weak pulse; fainting and vomiting.
  • Treatment: get out of the sun; apply cool, wet cloths; loosen your clothing. Drink fluids if you're not vomiting and seek medical attention immediately.

    Heat cramps

  • Symptoms: painful spasms in arm, leg and abdominal muscles.
  • Treatment: firm pressure or gentle massage can help.
  • Causes: loss of water and salt from the body. Drinking water may help if you're not vomiting.

    Heatstroke or sunstroke

  • Symptoms: high body temperature (105 degrees or more); hot, dry skin; rapid and strong pulse; confusion; possible loss of consciousness. This is a severe medical emergency.
  • Call emergency medical personnel, and move to a cooler place while you wait. A cold sponge bath is beneficial. Drink water if you're not vomiting.

    Preventing heat-related illness

    What can you do to keep yourself from getting overheated this summer?

    Adjust your activity level. Even if you're one of those people who gets exercise every day and is in good shape, you still need to watch it when it's hot. Don't exercise during the hottest part of the day. On some days, it might be best not to exercise at all. Even going outside to run an errand can be difficult, so try to avoid any running around in the late morning and in the afternoon.

    Spend time in air conditioning as much as you can. If you don't have air conditioning, or if it's too expensive to keep yours on, go to a mall, library, a movie or anyplace else you can think of that has AC. You need to give your system a break, because it's always working to keep your body from getting overheated. If you don't drive and have trouble getting out, ask for help. Or ask your doctor for advice about organizations that can help you.

    Eat for the heat. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables when it's hot, and limit the higher protein foods, such as meat, which increase the internal heat your body produces. Fruits and vegetables have a lot of water, which helps keep you cooler.

    Drink water regularly, even if you're not thirsty. Keep a glass of water next to you, and fill it throughout the day. If you have certain health problems, such as kidney or liver disease, heart failure, or epilepsy, or if you're on a diet that restricts fluids, ask your doctor whether you should drink more water when the weather is hot.

    Avoid alcohol. It interferes with your body's ability to regulate its temperature. It also acts as a diuretic, removing fluid from your body more quickly.

    And don't forget-protect your insulin from heat

    You don't need to keep insulin in the refrigerator, but it shouldn't be exposed to temperatures higher than 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Small coolers and travel bags with cool packs are available just for insulin storage. You could also check with your local pharmacy.

    The American Diabetes Association; The Journal of Applied Research, The National Weather Service
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