July 28, 2015

Six Diabetes Tips on Staying Healthy this Summer

Robin Blog 12Yay summer! For those of us in the northern hemisphere, it’s finally time for barbecues, frolicking at the beach, and taking family trips. Here are some tips on enjoying your summer adventures and staying healthy at the same time.

1) Hydrate: Prioritize carrying extra water with you, and sip it regularly. I like to keep one water bottle in the freezer overnight and another in the fridge. Just remember to leave air space before freezing a bottle, so it won’t explode as the liquid expands!

If you’re drinking anything besides water, remember to alternate with water along the way. Or at least consider options like diet iced tea (0 grams of carb), diet cranberry juice (2 grams of carb), coconut water (10 grams of carb), and mineral water (0 grams of carb).  Choosing fresh fruits and vegetables can help you stay hydrated too. Some of my favorite juicy summer snacks are melons, tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, blueberries, and citrus fruits.

2) Apply Sunblock: My husband’s skin is packed with melanin, so he never worries about this stuff. But for me, sun protection is a vital part of the summer routine!  Here’s what I’ve learned about how to do it:

  • If you’re in the sun for more than fifteen minutes, make sure you’re protected.
  • Sun hats, sunglasses, and umbrellas are great ways to lower your exposure.
  • Apply sunscreen before you get dressed. This way, you won’t miss any areas in an attempt to protect your clothes.
  • Sunscreen takes at least thirty minutes to absorb into your skin.
  • Reapply every two hours. I set “sunblock” alarms on my phone, so I won’t forget.
  • Use a higher SPF strength if you have lighter or more sensitive skin.
  • Spray-on sunblock still needs to be rubbed in thoroughly. I learned this the hard way.  So next time an elderly gentleman offers to “help with your back,” you might consider taking him up on the offer.
  • Don’t forget to cover the back of your neck, feet, lips, and ears.

3) Test More & Adjust Medications:  Make a point to increase how often you’re checking your blood sugar. Consider how your activities will vary from that of a regular day, and adjust medications accordingly. Here’s how I cover increased and decreased activity levels with my insulin pump:

  • If I’m going to be hiking from 2-4pm, I lower the basal rate 75% between 1-3pm.
  • If I’ll be sitting in a car from 2-4pm, I raise the basal rate to 130% between 1-3pm.
  • If I’m disconnected from the pump for more than 20 min, I check to see how much basal insulin I missed when I reconnect. Then I’ll take that much as a bolus (unless my blood sugar is trending low).

4) Pack Snacks & Backup Supplies: On days when your schedule is irregular, it’s more likely that your blood sugar will be unpredictable.  Just remember to be prepared with extra glucose and medical supplies.  If I’m running low on insulin, I fill an extra cartridge before I leave home, and then carry it in my FRIO pack so it stays cool.  You can check these out at http://www.frioinsulincoolingcase.com/

For swimming adventures, I disconnect from the pump and leave it in an easily accessible, dry, and safe place.  I try to remember to cover my infusion site when I do this,especially when I’m at the beach.  You can use the plastic plug that comes with each infusion set or a waterproof Band-Aid.

5) Protect Your Feet: In addition to putting sunscreen on the tops of your feet, it’s recommended that people with diabetes always protect the underside of their feet as well.  Apparently, our feet are more likely to cause health complications than the feet of non-diabetics.  If you get a cut on your foot, be sure to clean it thoroughly and keep a close eye on the healing process. I’ve also heard that people with diabetes are supposed to use quick-dry socks on land and water shoes in the water.

6) Be Patient with Yourself: While it’s important to take precautions, diabetes doesn’t need to get in the way of your amazing summer adventures.  When I forget something, I first ask myself: Do I need to cancel plans and go home?  I think outside the box, do my best to stay calm, and consider how to be resourceful.  Usually, I can find ways around the problem.  But in general, you just have to forgive yourself for being human.

So my summer advice to you is this:  Do your best to be safe, and have fun too!