Have Diabetes? How to Stay Safe in the Summer Heat

While basking in the summer sun may be great for your mental health, it can be dangerous if you have diabetes. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of complications.

Use sunscreen. "It's important to heed the basic sunscreen rules," says Donna Bilu Martin, MD, a dermatologist. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that will block both UVB and UVA rays, preferably with an SPF of at least 30. "Anything under 15 will not be effective," says Martin. "An SPF of 30 or higher is better." Be sure to apply sunscreen, even in those easy-to-forget areas like the tops of your ears, the bottoms of your feet, and the tops of your hands. And reapply it every two hours (more often if you go in the water.)

Be a friend to your feet. This means not going barefoot, especially if you already have some diabetic complications. If you have diabetic neuropathy with a loss of sensation in your feet, you may not be aware when you step on a sharp object, such as a shell. Likewise, you may not feel a burning sensation when you step onto sand that's very hot.  "Injuries to the feet are a special concern," Martin says. "So take special precautions. Examine your feet regularly, and if there are sores that aren't healing, call your doctor. Be sure to visit your podiatrist regularly, too." Rather than covering any foot wounds with sunscreen, clean them and cover them with a bandage, which not only blocks out the sun's rays but prevents bacteria from getting into the wound.

Know your meds. Be aware that some medications can make you more sensitive to the sun. In general, some blood pressure drugs, along with certain anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics, may increase sun sensitivity. "It's important to realize that sunscreen and sun protection can prevent such a reaction," says Karthik Krishnamurthy, MD, consulting dermatologist with the Melanoma Team at Montefiore Einstein Center for Cancer Care in New York City.

Stay moisturized. When you have diabetes, you're a little more prone to problems if you get a sunburn, says Doris Day, MD, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. "A sunburn may not heal as well, due to diabetes," she says. "Always be sure to moisture properly after being in the sun." If your skin starts to peel, moisturize so that it doesn't start to crack and possibly develop into an infection. And be vigilant about insect bites, too. Make it a point not to scratch your bites, and keep them covered to reduce the risk of infection.

Be prepared. If you have an insulin pump, take extra care in hot, sticky summer weather. Use a skin-prep wipe that leaves a tacky residue on the skin so you'll get better adhesion when you're preparing the site. (Don't use one of these if you have a continuous glucose monitor, though, since it could affect the monitor's accuracy.)

Sport some shades. It's especially important to wear sunglasses if you have retinopathy or cataracts. When shopping, look for a pair that provides 99 to 100 percent protection from UVA and UVB rays.



Neithercott, Tracey. "9 skin care tips for sun safety." May 2012. Diabetes Forecast.http://forecast.diabetes.org/prevention-may2012?loc=homepage_dfmaglinks_may2012