Qatar’s Hot Summer Months Can Present Unique Challenges for Individuals With Diabetes
AsQatar’s hot and humid summer months can often be challenging for individuals with diabetes, extra care must be taken during this period, according to Ms. Manal Othman, Director of Diabetes Education at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC).
“Qatar’s hot summer months can be challenging for patients with diabetes as extreme heat can affect blood sugar control. In general, diabetics feel the heat more than people who don’t have diabetes because many diabetes complications, such as damage to blood vessels and nerves, can affect the sweat glands. Diabetics also become dehydrated more quickly and hot temperatures can lead to sunburn, which can stress the body and raise blood sugar levels,” said Ms. Othman.
According to Ms. Othman, dehydration can be one of the greatest threats to an individual with diabetes because, in addition to causing blood glucose levels to rise, it can also inhibit the absorption of injected insulin. She says the effects of dehydration aren’t always obvious.
“Staying hydrated is important for everyone but this is especially important for individuals with diabetes. Once a person with diabetes experiences uncontrolled blood sugar levels or heat exhaustion, it can be difficult to get glucose levels back under control. We advise our patients to be cautious during the summer months and we teach them to recognize the symptoms of heat-related illness, which can include dizziness, fainting, excessive thirst or excessive sweating,” noted Ms. Othman.
She stresses the importance of seeking medical attention for heat-related illness and recommends patients carry small bottles of water with them and test their blood sugar levels frequently.
“Hot temperatures can cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate suddenly, and this is especially true if an individual is involved in physical exercise. Physical activity is key to managing diabetes, but we don’t recommend being active outdoors during the hottest part of the day or when the heat index is high. Get out early in the morning or in the evening when temperatures are lower, or spend some time walking around an air-conditioned mall,” added Ms. Othman.
Ms. Othman recommends individuals with diabetes drink plenty of caffeine-free fluids, especially water and carry their medications with them while away from home. She stresses the importance of ensuring that insulin, glucose meters, and test strips are safely stored during times of high heat and humidity.
“A number of variables can affect the efficacy of test strips and insulin and improper storage and high temperatures are among the greatest threats. Heat can damage blood sugar monitors, insulin pumps, and other diabetes equipment. Don’t leave them in a hot car, by a pool, in direct sunlight, or on the beach. We recommend our patients keep their insulin in a small cooler or insulated lunch bag when traveling or spending time away from home,” said Ms. Othman.
She also warns about the dangers of sunburn, saying heat and sunburn place additional stress on the body, which raises blood sugar levels. She says sunburn can also cause inflammation and may result in increased insulin resistance.
“We educate our patients about the importance of avoiding sunburn. We recommend they use a good broad-spectrum sunscreen and wear sunglasses and a hat when out in the sun. We also recommend they don’t go barefoot, even on the beach or at the pool.
Wearing loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothing can also be an effective strategy for beating the summer heat,” said Ms. Othman.
Diabetes-related skin conditions are another notable concern during the warmer months, with bacterial infections, fungal infections, diabetic blisters, rashes, sores, and itching, being more common when the heat and humidity are high. Some skin problems can also be a warning sign of diabetes in those who are undiagnosed. Ms. Othman says most diabetes-related skin conditions can be prevented or treated easily if detected early.
“During the year, but especially during the warmer months, it is important for individuals with diabetes to keep their skin dry and clean. Perspiring, summer activities, and excessive sun exposure can trigger a number of diabetes-related skin conditions. Throughout the year, but especially during the hotter months it is important for diabetics to inspect their skin daily to look for irregularities and to report any issues to their doctor immediately,” said Ms. Othman.
Ms. Othman adds that frequent monitoring is the key to well-managed diabetes as it can allow a patient to take appropriate action sooner and avoid a diabetic emergency. She adds that in cases where the individual has been physically active, it is important to continue monitoring blood sugar levels for several hours, saying their blood sugar may be affected for several hours after the activity ends. She also recommends individuals with diabetes always carry identification that indicates they have diabetes.
Hamad Medical Corporation
Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is the main provider of secondary and tertiary healthcare in Qatar and one of the leading hospital providers in the Middle East.
For more than four decades, HMC has been dedicated to delivering the safest, most effective and compassionate care to all its patients.
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