Millions of us living with a very common condition need to take extra care as the current UK heatwave continues into next week.
And it’s looking like we could be heading for England’s hottest day on record, with some experts predicting the mercury hitting a sizzling 40°C for the first time ever.
Currently, the warmest UK day stands at 38.7°C, recorded at Cambridge Botanic Garden in July 2019.
And this spiralling heat means people with diabetes need to play it extra safe over the coming days.
In the UK, close to five million deal with this life-long condition, where your body struggles to control blood sugar levels. And something which can be harder to manage in hot weather.
Head of care at Diabetes UK Dan Howarth doesn’t want to spoil anyone’s fun, but is keen to highlight that if you have the condition, you need to be cautious in the sunshine.
“Sitting in the sun for long periods can affect your diabetes because you’re not being very active, making blood sugar levels higher than usual,” he says.
“On the flipside, if you take insulin to treat your diabetes, it will be absorbed more quickly from the injection site in warm weather, and this increases the risk of hypos (hypoglycaemia, where the level of sugar – glucose – in your blood drops too low)” he said.
Diabetes UK said there were four main things that diabetics can do to keep themselves safe:
Check your levels
It is essential for diabetics to monitor their blood sugar levels so they can give themselves the correct amount of insulin, which can vary for different people.
Medics at Diabetes UK say you should be checking these levels more often during the heat, and to adjust your dose or what you eat accordingly.
They advised: “If you plan on being active in the sun, like going for a swim, eat some extra carbohydrate at your meal before or as an extra snack. Check your levels beforehand and have a sugary snack if your levels are low. Keep something sugary to hand too, such as your usual hypo treatment, just in case”.
Keep any equipment out of the sunshine
Sugar levels are checked by blood glucose meters and test strips, which can both be adversely affected by heat.
As such, it’s important to keep them out of direct sunlight and at regular room temperature.
But experts warn people not to keep them in the fridge, as this can lead to inaccurate results.
Store insulin properly
When the weather’s hot, you need to be mindful when storing your insulin.
Diabetes UK explained: “If your blood sugar levels are consistently higher than expected, it’s worth considering whether your insulin could have been damaged in the sun. Insulin, in the hot weather especially, is best kept in the fridge or a cool bag (taking care that it does not freeze).”
Heat-damaged insulin, which is normally clear, turns cloudy and the liquid can become grainy and stick to the side of the glass.
Any insulin exposed to bright sunlight may take on a brown hue.
It’s essential to never use insulin if it doesn’t look right, and if unsure always seek the advice of a health professional.
Make sure you don’t use insulin that looks like this, and if unsure always speak to a healthcare professional or GP.
Experts added: “Other medications, such as tablets usually should be kept as close to normal room as possible. Check the patient information leaflet that comes with your medication for information on how to store”.
All of us need to stay topped-up with fluids when it’s hot out there.
Becoming dehydrated can increase the risk of hyperosmolar hyperglycaemic syndrome (HHS) – very high blood glucose levels – or diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) – a serious problem that can happen in people with diabetes if their body starts to run out of insulin.
So stay safe – and enjoy the sun!