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A Guide to Summer Health when Living with a Chronic Disease

Summer heat and sunshine means a few extra things to think about when it comes to staying healthy when living with a chronic disease. People with different types of chronic disease, like type 2 diabetes, tend to feel the summertime heat more than people who are not diagnosed. Here we discuss how you can enjoy and stay safe during summer time. 

 

COVID-19 Summer Safety with Chronic Disease 

As more people get vaccinated, we’ll start to see the world return to normal. Yet, it’s important to continue to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines. These include washing hands frequently and using hand sanitizer, social distancing, staying home when you’re not feeling well, and wearing a mask in crowded public spaces. Health guidelines also help prevent flu and other illnesses. When you’re living with a chronic disease, it can be harder for your body to fight off infections. 

 

Insulin and the Sun and Heat 

Insulin is a protein and is sensitive to temperature. Hot temperatures degrade and breakdown insulin, making it less effective when you take it. Manufacturers recommend storing insulin between 36° to 46°F. The cold protects insulin but if you have to leave it out, ensure it’s in a dark, cooler location. 

If you’re going to be outside for long periods of time with your insulin, keep it in a cooler. Never leave your insulin in a hot car and even a few minutes of high temperatures can destroy your insulin. 

Before you take your insulin, look for any changes in the color or the clearness. If you see anything abnormal, like white particles or clumps, discard it. It’s better to discard it than to take medication that is spoiled. 

 

Make Time for Self-Care 

Having a chronic disease means you may have to pay extra attention to your skin, feet, and your overall body. If you’re living with diabetes, inspect your feet daily. Check between your toes, the heel, and lower part of your legs. 

You don’t have to spend several hours per day or even a week on yourself. Be successful by breaking up your time and squeeze in moments throughout the busy day. 

Part of taking care of ourselves means recognizing when we also need help. Ask for help when your chronic disease is challenging. Remember the heat can take a toll on the body and you may find you need a power-nap to enjoy the rest of the day. 

 

Be Aware of Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke 

Chronic diseases can damage blood vessels, nerves, and other parts of the body that may become more sensitive to the heat. This may result in your body not being able to cool itself as effectively, which can lead to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and heat cramps. 

Certain medications can also increase your risk of heat related illness. Heat exhaustion happens when you become dehydrated and can be treated with helping the person cool down. Heat stroke is a life-threatening emergency and requires emergency support right away. 

 

Increase your Hydration Intake with Food 

Dehydration is one of the most common illnesses during the summer time. Look for symptoms like fatigue, headaches, muscle cramps, a rapid heart beat, and low blood pressure. Water is the best thing to help you avoid these symptoms. 

If you struggle with drinking enough water to stay hydrated, add certain foods that have a high percentage of water in them. 

 

Add these foods to your daily meals to help reduce your risk of dehydration: 

  • Watermelon
  • Strawberries 
  • Zucchini 
  • Honeydew
  • Oranges 
  • Pineapple 
  • Most fruits and vegetables 
  • Cold soups 
  • Smoothies 

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Avoid Exercising in the Heat 

Outdoor activities are an important part of summer time. Yet, planning your outdoor events in the mornings and evenings when it is slightly cooler can help you feel your best. 

Extreme heat can affect everyone, but may be especially harmful for people with chronic conditions. When you’re spending time in the heat doing activities, use shade as much as possible. Also wear sunscreen, insect repellent, and light-weight breathable clothing. Many people also find a wide-brimmed hat helpful in protecting their head and face. 

 

Autoimmune Conditions and the Sun

Autoimmune conditions, like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or crohns can cause joint pain and fatigue. Direct sunlight-UV rays can cause flare-ups and make your symptoms feel worse. Avoid being outside during the afternoon when the sun is often the strongest. Protect your skin by wearing long sleeves and pants and apply sunscreen made from zinc or titanium dioxide. 

 

Final Thoughts

You don’t have to avoid summer time activities when you’re living with a chronic disease. Take extra precautions and plan ahead and you’ll be able to spend time indoors and out with friends and family. 

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Nutrition Health and Wellbeing (NHW)

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