Navigating the Challenges and Enjoying Summer Safely with Diabetes

Seasonal changes are known to impact many individuals, but those living with diabetes feel the impact of extreme heat (and cold) more than those without the disease. This is why summertime should always be a careful time for people with diabetes.

Summer is here, which means many of us will spend more time exploring the great outdoors, enjoying perfect beach days, hiking in the woods, running around theme parks, and doing many other summertime activities.

For those living with diabetes, summer is both exciting and challenging. On the one hand, it’s great to spend more time outdoors and being active because physical activity can aid in blood sugar control, help us lose any excess weight we might be carrying, and generally contribute to our feeling our healthiest.

On the flip side, however, many people with diabetes (PWDs) live in hot summer climates, and excessive heat can make the season challenging and downright dangerous if we don’t take some precautions, particularly when you combine heat, humidity, lots of sunshine, and excess activity.

Did you know that PWDs feel the heat and are impacted by it more than other folks? It's a fact, and here’s why.

Why Does Heat Affect People With Diabetes More?

It comes as no surprise to anyone living with diabetes that we have a higher risk of certain health complications, such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy).

You might also know that diabetic neuropathy can damage blood vessels in the body, which can impede circulation and lead to the telltale sense of numbness in the limbs that is so common among those with Type 2 diabetes.

This condition can also affect how we handle heat. When certain blood vessels and nerves in the body are damaged, they can impact the sweat glands of the skin. Sweat is how the body cools itself off, and when it is not done effectively, it can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke, according to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Don’t Forget About Dehydration

Another summertime challenge related to blood sugar is dehydration. People with diabetes generally lose water from their bodies more quickly than those without the disease and are more susceptible to dehydration. This is even more of a concern in the summer.

If you don’t drink enough water in the summer heat, your blood sugar can spike, which in turn causes you to urinate more frequently, further contributing to the risk of dehydration. So, if you’re spending time in the summer heat, rule one is to ensure you drink enough water.

How Your Body Processes Insulin Can Change In The Heat

Yep. Excessive high temperatures can impact how well your body uses the insulin you put into it daily, whether through injections or an insulin pump. You’re probably better off testing your blood sugar more often than usual to avoid any potential dips or spikes. You might even need to adjust your diet a little if the blood sugar swings are significant. Of course, whenever you struggle with controlling blood sugar, it’s wise to talk to your diabetes physician to work out some safe and sound solutions.

Even Your Medication Can Feel The Heat

It’s not just your health you must worry about on those scorcher days. It’s also the health of your insulin and other medications. Heat can damage your vital diabetes prescriptions, which means they’ll no longer work the way they’re supposed to work to control blood sugar. If you spend time outdoors, ensure an excellent place to store your insulin and medications. Never leave them in a hot car. Never expose them to prolonged direct sunlight. You never want to expose them directly to ice, so tossing them in your water cooler isn’t a great call either. If you want to be sure of the integrity of your insulin, we recommend investing in a cooled, insulated insulin-carrying case. They’re surprisingly affordable, and they can be lifesavers.

You Have To Factor In The Humidity, Too

It’s not just the temperature that can get to you. It’s also the amount of moisture in the air – the humidity. We're returning to the risk of heat stroke and heat exhaustion. As we pointed out earlier, your body cools itself off by sweating. The cooling process works like this – as sweat evaporates off the skin (essentially drying off), it naturally takes heat with cool, lowering your body temperature. When there’s a lot of humidity, we tend to stay wet, and that drying process doesn’t happen as readily, which means it’s a lot harder to cool down in high humidity. It just feels hotter than it is out there – for everyone.

A smart move is to check the heat index, which combines actual temperature and humidity in the air to give you a “felt” or “apparent” temperature for the day. For example, the actual temperature may be 90°F, but with 70% humidity, it’ll feel like 105°F—that’s the heat index.

The National Weather Service explains it in more detail and even provides a handy chart to calculate the heat index based on temperature and humidity. If you live in a city or town with high humidity, it’s one more thing to consider this summer.

7 Tips For Summertime Fun And Safe Diabetes Health

The most significant rule is to use your good judgment. If it feels absurdly hot, exerting yourself too much is probably not a great idea. If you start feeling dizzy or overly thirsty, it’s time to get out of the sun and heat. While common sense goes a long way, here are seven general tips for playing it safe this summer.

  1. Skip The Hotter Hours

Physical activity is excellent, and the warmer temperatures in the summer make many more activities possible. However, try to avoid excessive activity during those midday hours when the sun is highest and so is the mercury, usually between 10 am and 4 pm. If you want to run, bike, or play your favorite golf course, do it in the morning or early evening.

  1. Drink plenty of water

Dehydration is one of the biggest summertime threats those with diabetes face, and drinking enough water can stop it in its tracks. It’s a no-brainer and will also help you with blood sugar control.

  1. Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing

Skintight clothes and dark colors tend to trap heat, which is the last thing you need when you’re trying to keep your body temperature down. A hat with a wide brim is also a good idea.

  1. Sunblock and more sunblock

Damage to your skin (a.k.a. sunburn!) can impact diabetes management and blood sugar control. Slather on the sunblock and reapply regularly.

  1. Know the signs of highs and lows

Remember, blood sugar is more challenging to control in the heat, and you are susceptible to hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. So, know the signs, such as fatigue, excessive sweating, lightheadedness, frequent urination, excessive thirst, and blurry vision for hypoglycemia.

  1. Test more often

Many people find it more challenging to control blood sugar fluctuations in the summertime. If you’re not using a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device, play it safe and test more often using glucose strips and your glucose meter.

  1. Avoid alcohol and caffeine

They’re not great for blood sugar control in general, but in the summer heat, they can dramatically increase the risk of dehydration.

Summer Takeaways

Good sense and safety rules! It would be best if you didn’t take advantage of the warmer temperatures but enjoyed lots of summertime fun. It’s just that, as someone living with diabetes, you have a few added concerns to contend with, and, let’s face it, that’s par for the course of our lives. Summer is here. Get out there and have fun. Be safe, be wise, and you’ll be just fine.

Got any summertime tips for our diabetes audience? Please share them below.


We hope you found this post informative and insightful. At Diabetic Warehouse, we’re committed to helping those with diabetes manage their blood sugar by offering a complete selection of testing and treatment supplies at prices up to 65% less than those found at most pharmacies and suppliers.