Why You Should Avoid Sunburns If You Have Type 1 Diabetes

There are a lot of things that can impact glycemic control in people with type 1 diabetes, including falling ill, water intake, skipped meals, and sleep deprivation. Even something as simple as a sunburn or heat can have an effect.

Let’s discuss how heat and sunburns can impact people with diabetes and what you can do to avoid them.

The Risk of Sunburns for Type 1 Diabetes

People with diabetes tend to struggle more with heat because they’re at a higher risk of dehydration. For this same reason, they are also more likely to develop sunburns, which can impact blood glucose levels

Not only that but if you have T1D, it can also have the following effects on your body:

  • Delayed Healing: People with diabetes can experience delayed wound healing due to impaired circulation and nerve damage. Sunburns can be considered a form of skin damage, and if sunburned areas don’t heal quickly, it can increase the risk of infection and other complications.
  • Increased Risk of Infections: Diabetes can weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections. Sunburns can create openings in the skin that allow bacteria and other pathogens to enter, potentially leading to infections. Proper sun protection can help minimize this risk.
  • Inflammation: Sunburns cause inflammation in the skin, which can impact blood glucose levels. Inflammation triggers the release of stress hormones like cortisol, which can lead to insulin resistance and higher blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.

How Heat Affects Type 1 Diabetes

Higher temperatures are fun for no one, but they can be particularly annoying for people with type 1 diabetes. Depending on how active you are, what you eat, and how hydrated you are, the hot weather will impact your body differently.  

People with T1D who have high blood glucose levels tend to lose water very quickly through urination, which puts them at risk of dehydration. Now add hot and humid conditions and excessive sweating, and you will be losing water too quickly. This can lead to severe dehydration which can cause you to have headaches, low blood pressure, dizziness, tiredness, etc.

Dehydration then leads to high blood glucose levels and poor glycemic control –  a vicious cycle that you need to break before you get too sick. Drinking adequate water is the best way to avoid this situation.

So, the heat, dehydration, and sunburn combined can lead to quite a spike in your blood glucose levels, which may be difficult to manage.

To keep better track of your blood glucose levels, try Gluroo. It’s a free, collaborative diabetes management app that works like a chat app. It offers device monitoring (Dexcom, Libre, OP5, etc.), chat-based logging, achievements, alerts for low, high, and rapid blood sugar swings, and much more. You can download Gluroo for free today on iOS and Android using the buttons below.

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

What to Do If You Get a Sunburn

Let’s talk about what you should do if you do get sunburnt.

Before you do anything, get out of the sun and go into a cool space. Then you can start treating your sunburn.

  1. Cool down the area with cold compresses or cold water. If you have access to a cold shower or cold water, run some cold water over the affected area to make sure things don’t get worse.
  2. Moisturize the affected area with a lotion or aloe vera to soothe your skin and make sure it doesn’t crack or start to peel.
  3. If the pain is really bad, you could try to get hold of some over-the-counter painkillers to reduce the inflammation and pain and make sure your body is not under too much stress.
  4. Don’t forget your blood glucose and make sure that you keep an eye on it and don’t let it get too high.
  5. If things start to worsen quickly and you develop blisters or signs of dehydration, contact a healthcare provider immediately.

Tips for Dealing with Hot Days

With all the recurrent heat waves and rising temperatures, we should also discuss how you should prepare for the heat and make sure that you remain healthy and active even on the hottest days.

  • One of the most important things to do is to stay in the shade and, if possible, avoid going out when temperatures are at their highest.
  • If you have to go out in the sun, make sure you thoroughly apply a high-factor sunscreen. Also, for sunburnt protection, applying sunscreen just once is not enough, you have to reapply it every 2 hours for it to be effective and at least 20 minutes before you go out into the sun.
  • It’s a good idea to wear clothes that keep you covered. We know this may be hard to do but try to wear light, loose-fitting shirts with long sleeves. Wear full-length trousers, and keep your head covered. Also, wear light and breathable materials so that you sweat less and lose less water.
  • Wear sunglasses when you go out to avoid your eyes getting damaged from increased UV exposure.
  • Stay active but be smart about it. If you want to go for a run or work out outside, do it when the temperatures are lower like in the early morning, evening, or night.
  • Staying hydrated is an absolute must. Make sure you always have water on you. It will help you avoid dehydration and cool down your body.
  • Keep some sweets or juices with you when you go out in case your sugar levels drop suddenly.
  • Keep an eye on blood sugar levels to make sure that things are in control.

All these things are simple to follow and can have a big impact on your health during the heat.

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