Managing Your Child’s Diabetes in the Summer – Tips for Parents

Summer should be a fun and exciting time for a child, regardless of whether or not they’re a diabetic. That said, hot temperatures can bring complications to T1D management. Extreme heat can be challenging for a child with type 1 diabetes because it can affect blood sugar levels, causing them to rise or fall.

Also, people with diabetes are at higher risk for dehydration and heat exhaustion. That’s why you have to be cautious during the hot season and make the necessary preparations so your child can safely enjoy summer. 

In this article, we’ll be going over the precautions to take during summer, and how to recognize signs of heat exhaustion to ensure you and your child have a safe, relaxing, and fun summer.

The Effects of Heat on Blood Glucose Levels

People with diabetes are more likely to get dehydrated, especially in the summer due to increased sweating. When your child’s body is dehydrated, blood glucose levels can become more concentrated, resulting in higher readings.

Not only that but extreme heat can also lead to heat exhaustion or heatstroke, which can impact blood glucose management. When the body overheats, it can trigger the release of stress hormones that elevate blood glucose levels.

Another way in which heat affects the body is by changing insulin absorption. This means you’ll have to adjust your child’s insulin dosage or timing to avoid BGL from dropping too much. 

Heat and Diabetes Supplies

Heat can have a negative effect on diabetes medications and can even damage insulin, insulin pumps, glucose monitors, and other medications. 

Whether you are on insulin injections or insulin pumps, you need to protect your medication and supplies. We recommend storing insulin in a refrigerator at 2-8 degree Celsius (36 to 46 F) because higher temperatures can make insulin ineffective. 

While outdoors, use a cooler bag to keep medicine, insulin, and test strips. But don’t place insulin directly on an ice pack as it shouldn’t be frozen, just cool. Check out our ultimate diabetes travel kit for links to some convenient cold pouches that work via evaporative cooling.

Extreme heat can cause insulin pumps to malfunction, so you may consider detaching the insulin pump for 1-2 hours if your child plans to be outside. 

Install Gluroo from Apple App Store
Install Gluroo from Google Play Store

The Risk of Heat Exhaustion

There are some factors that make people with diabetes more susceptible to the effects of heat.

The first one is dehydration. Your child may have an increased risk of dehydration due to higher blood glucose levels. When blood glucose levels are elevated, the body tries to eliminate excess glucose through increased urine production, leading to increased fluid loss. (The other causes of dehydration apply too, like simply not drinking enough liquids combined with sweating more.)

Another factor is uncontrolled or poorly managed diabetes. This can impact your child’s body’s response to heat. When blood glucose levels are high, the body may have difficulty dissipating heat effectively, leading to increased susceptibility to heat-related illnesses like heat exhaustion or worse, heatstroke.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion to Look Out For

The most common symptoms of heat exhaustion include:

  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness or lethargic
  • Muscle cramps
  • Irritability
  • Rapid pulse

If your child develops symptoms of heat exhaustion, consider moving them to a cool place and giving them water to drink. You can also remove heavy or tight clothing. 

Make sure to seek medical advice or treatment if the symptoms don’t relieve after some time.

Tips for Dealing with Summer Safely

While summer poses some risks for your child, it should not stop them from having fun outdoors. Here are some important tips for managing your child’s diabetes in the summer.  

1. Check BGL More Frequently

Monitoring your child’s blood glucose levels from time to time is an important thing to consider particularly when exposed to high temperatures. If your child doesn’t use a CGM, they’ll need to carry a glucometer with them.

2. Make Sure Your Child Stays Hydrated

Again, people with diabetes are more likely to get dehydrated, especially in the summer. Make sure your child drinks plenty of water throughout the day. 

3. Store Medication/Supplies Properly

Avoid keeping insulin and other medications in direct sunlight.

Ideally, insulin vials and insulin cartridges should be stored in the refrigerator. When outside, you or your child can carry cooling bags to store insulin vials and protect them from the heat.

4. Keep Emergency Supplies at Hand

If your child is going on vacation or to the beach, remember to keep these emergency supplies at hand:

  • Fast-acting glucose: You or your child should carry a source of fast-acting glucose, such as glucose tablets or gel. These can help raise blood sugar levels rapidly in case of an emergency.
  • Glucagon emergency kit: If your child experiences severe hypoglycemia and loses consciousness or is unable to consume oral glucose, a glucagon emergency kit is vital. Make sure the glucagon emergency kit is readily accessible and that those around your child know how to use it.
  • Extra insulin and supplies: Carry extra insulin vials or pens in case of loss or damage. Pack sufficient insulin delivery supplies, such as syringes, pen needles, or infusion sets, for the duration of your vacation.
  • Blood glucose monitoring supplies: Ensure you have an ample supply of blood glucose test strips, lancets, and a glucose meter or CGM. Regular monitoring of blood glucose levels is vital, especially during outdoor activities.
  • Snacks and water: Pack an assortment of diabetes-friendly snacks, such as granola bars, fruit, or nuts, to help manage blood sugar levels during extended periods of physical activity. Additionally, make sure your child has plenty of water available to prevent dehydration.

5. Always ensure Your Child Carries Diabetes Identification

Your child should wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace indicating their diabetes diagnosis. It should include your contact information and any other pertinent medical information. This helps others identify their condition during emergencies. At Gluroo, many of us use a ROAD iD on our watches as a backup form of identification.

6. Use Gluroo

If your child is older and hanging out or going on vacation with friends in the summer, you can use Gluroo to stay on top of their levels.

Gluroo can connect with the child’s CGM and insulin pump and alert you to any changes in blood glucose levels, wherever you’re located. You can also see if they’re keeping up with meals by having them log their food into the app.

Gluroo is a free app, you can download it using the links below.

Install Gluroo from Apple App Store
Install Gluroo from Google Play Store

7. Limit Time Outside

While your child can safely enjoy time outdoors during the summer if the proper precautions are taken, it might be best to limit time outside during the hottest part of the day. Morning is a great time to get outside before the heat of the day is in full swing.

Your Child Can Have a Memorable Summer!

By being aware of the impact of heat on blood glucose levels, you can ensure proper hydration, adjust insulin dosages if needed, and closely monitor your child’s blood sugar levels during outdoor activities. 

Just know that with proper care, preparation, and a little extra attention, your child can have a memorable summer while staying healthy and active.

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