Top Tips for Summer Testing
As we dive deep into the heat of the summer, it is important to be aware of the effect warmer temperatures can have on your diabetes testing supplies, blood sugar levels, and medications. High temperatures can raise the risk for dehydration and swings in your blood sugar, as well as reduced effectiveness of your testing supplies or medications, if not properly protected from extreme temperatures.
A few simple adjustments to your routine can better enable accurate blood sugar test results and help you to maintain healthy blood sugar levels while you enjoy your favorite summer activities.
1. Wash your hands
Let’s face it, living summer on the go means that our hands are probably dirtier than we think! Traces of sugar from fruit, ice cream, or that outdoor BBQ can lead to inaccurate results from unwashed or improperly cleaned fingers. Research published in the journal Diabetes Care showed that there was a difference of ≥10% in blood sugar levels with unwashed hands, compared to washed hands using soap and water. This difference was found among the majority of participants (88%), whose hands had recently touched fruit.
No need to skip out on the summer treats! Just remember to take an extra minute before testing to wash and thoroughly dry your hands. As a last resort, keep alcohol wipes in your bag or car for a quick on-the-go solution.
2. Test frequently
Summer weather can bring extreme heat and humidity, which can cause blood glucose levels to fluctuate and your body’s response to insulin to change. It is a good idea to test more frequently than your usual routine; that way you can take appropriate and immediate action to keep levels more stable.
If you notice your levels fluctuating more during the middle of the day, consider moving your physical activity indoors, or to the early morning or evening to take advantage of the milder temperatures. Remember to test before, during and immediately following your activity. Continue to frequently monitor your levels for several hours, as the effects of activities on blood sugar levels usually lasts for a longer period of time.
3. Stay hydrated
Activity and high temperatures increase the likelihood of excessive sweating. Sweating and not drinking enough liquids can cause changes in your body that can make your blood sugar rise, and lead to dehydration. If you have diabetes this process happens much quicker, so it is best to drink plenty of water, even before you become thirsty. It is also recommended to avoid beverages that can increase the likelihood of dehydration, such as alcohol and caffeinated beverages.
Be mindful and limit outdoor activities in high heat, especially in full sun during the midday and afternoon hours when temperatures are at their highest, which can cause excessive sweating and dangerous heat-related illnesses.
With plenty of water in your body, you will have a much easier time expressing a blood drop for testing, so you can quickly get back to enjoying your summer plans!
4. Keep supplies cool
If you’re hot, your testing equipment and medications are hot too. Keep your blood glucose meter, test strips, and medications with you in a purse or insulated bag. Avoid storing these items in extreme temperature environments such as a hot, locked car, or in direct contact with a frozen ice pack.
A cool, dry place is ideal for storing your supplies to ensure optimal performance. Refer to the instructions that came with your meter, test strips, insulin, or medications for the exact storage temperature ranges.
If your meter displays an error related to extreme temperatures, move to an area within the operating range for your meter and wait 10-20 minutes before retesting, to allow time for your meter and test strips to adjust to the new temperature.
5. Traveling? Bring extra supplies
When you’re packing for your next trip, be sure to include extra test strips, batteries, insulin, syringes/pens and a second meter for testing. It is always a good idea to bring snacks or glucose tabs incase the impromptu activities or extreme temperatures cause low blood sugar.
The next time you leave the house, do yourself a favor and take a couple minutes to prepare with these considerations in mind. You will have an easier time maintaining healthy blood sugar levels throughout the day. That means less time dealing with complications and more time enjoying your summer!