Managing Your Child’s Diabetes in the Heat of the Summer

Editor’s note: Meeting the needs of abused and neglected children means recognizing the diversity of health issues that impact children and empowering parents and communities to provide for every child and every survivor. This guest blog spotlights caring for children with type 1 diabetes.

When it comes to managing your child’s type 1 diabetes in the summer, there are a few extra things to think about. Believe it or not, people with diabetes feel the heat more than people who don’t have this medical condition. When temperatures start rising, conflicts with diabetes in children do, too. Even when it doesn’t seem very hot outside, the combination of heat and humidity can affect your child and how you manage their diagnosed type of diabetes. Read below for how the summer months can affect a child’s type 1 diabetes and what you can do to make sure they have a fun and safe summer, even in the heat.

Blood sugar levels are affected by heat

The summer heat can be significantly dangerous for your child’s blood sugar levels, especially if they have diabetes. When you get hot, you become dehydrated faster, which causes your blood sugar to spike. This is a serious concern for children with type 1 diabetes as they cannot produce insulin, so sugar sits stagnant in their bloodstream. This can lead to several common diabetes-related problems including damage to blood vessels and nerves, which provokes them to sweat without control because their bodies cannot cool down efficiently. It’s crucial that your child drinks adequate amounts of water daily to help their body temperature decrease and to prevent dehydration. Remember, high temperatures can also affect how their bodies take in insulin, too, so it’s important to check your child’s blood sugar more frequently than usual during hot days to inject the proper amounts accordingly. 

Diabetes supplies should be properly stored

Given that your child’s blood sugar levels will fluctuate in the heat, it’s crucial to protect diabetes supplies in the summer. Whether that’s insulin, oral medications, blood glucose meters, or test strips, they need to be carefully stored so they are as effective as possible. It’s likely that your child with type 1 needs artificial insulin because their pancreas does not make it for them. However, due to hot temperatures, the protein in insulin begins to break down from bacteria forming, causing it to become damaged or less effective for the child. While this won’t hurt them or make them sick, they may require another injection sooner than expected. In order to properly do its job, insulin should be kept at about 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit. If your child is going somewhere without access to a refrigerator, keep insulin out of direct sunlight or in an insulin-safe cold pack. The same applies to blood glucose monitors as well. To care for them properly, never leave them in a humid environment. It is best to store monitors in a cool, dry place to prevent any malfunctions. Keeping these diabetic essentials safe will guarantee your child’s diabetes is managed correctly, even throughout the high temperatures in summer.  

Physical activity can lower blood sugar levels

Summer brings plenty of additional opportunities for exercise and paired with the heat can lead to a significant decline in your child’s blood sugar. When blood sugar levels are too low for long periods of time it can lead to hypoglycemia, causing seizures, headaches, pale skin, or dizziness. To help prevent this, always check your child’s blood sugar levels before any physical activity. You may find that they need fewer insulin injections in the summer if they’re exercising more than usual. Also, be sure to always have extra snacks or juice readily available for your child at all times in case there is a significant drop in their blood sugar while engaging in physical activity in the heat. To avoid the consequences of the summer heat, encourage outdoor play in the shade, or make an effort to have exercise done early in the morning or late afternoon when the temperatures are out of their peak to maintain your child’s blood glucose levels. 

While having type 1 diabetes will make your child’s life different from a child without, that doesn’t have to take the fun out of their summer. Be proactive about all of the changes that will affect their diabetes management and overall health in the heat. Always consult with their healthcare professional before making drastic changes to their diabetes management during this time of year.