SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — It’s official. According to the National Weather Service, unseasonably hot temperatures are predicted to hit the Valley earlier than normal this year, signaling potential problems for people with chronic diseases such as diabetes. “An increased risk of dehydration and damage to diabetes medications and equipment are some of the challenges patients may face during hot weather,” says Adrienne Nassar, M.D., Internal Medicine, and Curtiss Cook, M.D., Endocrinologist, Mayo Clinic in Arizona.
Results of a 2010 Mayo Clinic study conducted by Drs. Nassar and Cook revealed that patients with diabetes need to learn more about how to beat the heat by taking precautions when temperatures climb and humidity levels rise. This survey, conducted in collaboration with the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service, examined responses of 152 patients in Phoenix.
The study found that in many cases, patients with diabetes waited too long before taking measures to protect themselves from the heat — often waiting until the 100-degree mark was reached. Only 39 percent of respondents were aware of the heat’s effect on medications and glucose monitoring devices. In addition, more than one third of patients left their essential diabetes medications and equipment at home, rather than risking exposure to the heat, and would not have had the means to check blood sugars or take their medications if needed.
“People living with diabetes in hot climates such as Arizona need to be more aware of how heat affects management of their disease,” Dr. Nassar advises. “Don’t wait for three-digit temps before taking precautions.” The Mayo Clinic investigators recommend the following tips for patients with diabetes as temperatures begin to climb in Arizona:
- Avoid exercising in the heat, choosing instead to do so in an air-conditioned place.
- Wear light colored clothing made of fabrics that can “breathe.”
- Protect your feet — never walk barefoot on hot surfaces.
- Watch for signs of possible heat exhaustion, such as dizziness, fainting or excessive sweating. Seek medical attention if you experience symptoms.
- Maintain adequate hydration, avoiding caffeinated or alcoholic beverages that can be dehydrating.
- Check sugar levels frequently throughout the day, especially during exercise, since blood sugars may fluctuate.
- On the road? Transport diabetes supplies and medications in an insulated bag protected by a cold pack. (Avoid freezing.)
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