Summertime Fun with Diabetes

Diabetes changes the rules of the game, but you can still play.

By Nicole Johnson, MA, MPH

Summer signals fun, sun, and family for most of us. I'm sure we're all already in full swing with pool time, summer camps, and family vacations. It's a wonderful season that I look forward to each year. It is also a time that I have to prepare for in very specific ways to make sure my diabetes is in good control and that my health is protected – especially in the sun.

Diabetes and the sun can prove to be a challenging mix. Heat, exposure, and sunburn can all contribute to diabetes challenges, and so are things we need to consider before jumping into our own versions of summer fun.

Temperature

Did you know that extreme temperatures may cause insulin to be less effective? Insulin companies state that insulin kept out of the fridge at normal room temperature will stay stable for only one month.

The stability of insulin at different temperatures varies depending on the type of insulin being used. Before traveling and engaging in summer outdoor activities, make sure to read the package inserts that come with your insulin. Each insulin formulation is different and reacts differently to summer temperatures.

Loss of efficacy is a major headache, but it happens, so store insulin in a refrigerator in hot climates where possible. Be careful when participating in activities outside for long periods of time or for multiple days in a row. I have had issues with insulin losing potency at summer camps and during the heat of summer in tropical areas. In my experience, I noticed a slow climb in my blood sugar levels. (This relates to insulin in my pump.)

A good protection plan is to hide your pump or insulin vial under clothing or in a holder when outside. Pump pouches or cell phone cases work well. At the pool, I typically put my pump under a white towel to protect it from the sun.

Another note: Extreme temperatures and humidity can also affect glucose meters and test strips. When overheated, meters will not function properly and will often produce an error reading. To solve this problem, try to keep the meter in a cool place. If the meter gets too hot and won't function, try setting the meter in front of an air conditioner for a few minutes. (This most often happens to me while I am driving long distances in the car of if I have left my meter in the car for an extended period of time.)

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Last Modified Date: April 23, 2013

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