Staying Hydrated with Diabetes: A Balancing Act

Use these tips to avoid dehydration and keep your blood sugar level down, even in hot weather.

DIABETES CARE|Feb.22, 2019

Dehydration can strike anyone when the sun is out and the temperature is high. But when you have diabetes, you're even more prone to dehydration. That makes finding ways to lower blood sugar and stay hydrated critical for those with diabetes, especially during the warmer summer months.

Dehydration and diabetes often go hand in hand. Diabetes occurs when the body doesn't produce enough insulin, creating extra sugar in your blood, and your kidneys work overtime to filter and absorb the excess sugar. If your kidneys are overworked, the Mayo Clinic says, your body expels the excess sugar in your urine, which in turn drags fluids from your tissues.

This makes you urinate more often, and that could leave you dehydrated. Drinking more fluids quenches your thirst, but it also makes you urinate even more, which could leave you even more dehydrated.

So how can you help prevent the problem of dehydration and diabetes and make sure your fluids remain at a healthy level? A few simple strategies can ensure that you stay hydrated, even when the weather is warm.

Staying Hydrated in Hot Weather

If you're still learning to manage your diabetes or if you're helping a loved one manage theirs, know that it's important to take extra steps to keep hydrated when it's hot out. Here are some tips:

  • Drink fluids. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water or caffeine-free beverages such as seltzer water or sugar-free lemonade. Keep your alcohol consumption at a minimum as alcohol can be dehydrating and contains carbohydrates.

  • Be mindful of heat exhaustion. If you have diabetes, you're at a higher risk of overheating and are extremely susceptible to many heat-related conditions. This problem can be compounded if you're working or exercising out in the heat, or even if you're simply outside with friends or relaxing at the beach. Be alert to signs of heat exhaustion, such as dizziness, profuse sweating, muscle cramps, fainting spells, headaches, increased heartbeat and nausea. If you or any of your loved ones exhibit any of these signs, move to a cooler place, drink plenty of fluids and contact your health provider.

  • Keep cool while exercising. During your exercise routine, be mindful of where you're working out. Instead of going for a run in the heat, take a trot on a treadmill in an air-conditioned gym. Or exercise outside in the early morning, when temperatures are lower.

  • Monitor your blood glucose levels regularly. Be sure to check your glucose levels at least four times a day. If you're not feeling great, check them even more frequently. Heat can cause your blood glucose levels to fluctuate, so remember to monitor them more often if you're spending time in the sun. And don't forget to bring lots of water and snacks with you wherever you go.
  • Keep insulin cool. It may seem easiest to keep your glucose strips or meter and your insulin in a purse, backpack or glove compartment, but think twice about doing that during a hot day. Insulin should never be stored in extreme temperatures. Instead, store your tests and insulin in a cool, dry place.

What Is the Normal Range for Blood Sugar?

The above tips are helpful, but what if you need to lower your blood sugar quickly? Well, you first need to understand what your normal blood sugar range is.

Your normal blood sugar range depends on a number of factors, such as your age, other health conditions you may have, how long you've had diabetes, your lifestyle habits and the amount of stress in your life. This chart from The Diabetes Council outlines normal blood sugar ranges based on your age and how long it's been since you've eaten, but you should talk to your doctor about any other factors you should consider when determining what your normal blood sugar range should be.

Ways to Lower Blood Sugar

If you find yourself in a situation where you have to lower your blood sugar quickly, The Diabetes Council suggests the following:

  • Drink water.
  • Increase your heart rate for about 15 minutes.
  • Eat a high-protein snack (that's not also high in sugar).
  • Administer a fast-acting insulin prescribed by your doctor.

Remember to check your blood sugar levels after doing any of the above.

Dehydration is a concern for everyone, but the combination of dehydration and diabetes can lead to dire complications. But by following some smart, simple strategies for avoiding dehydration, you can keep your blood sugar at a normal level and stay healthy and happy no matter how warm it is outside.