What You Need to Know About Diabetes and Sunburns

It seems like only yesterday, we were shoveling snow from our driveways, wishing we could go swimming at the beach. Now, the hot summer days are upon us. Summer means heat and sun, and sometimes it, unfortunately, means the occasional sunburn if we’re not careful.

Did you know that the risk of sunburn increases for diabetics? Sunburns are considered an injury to your skin, and just like with any other type of injury, your body is under stress and duress while healing.

So how can we keep our skin safe and respect our diabetes this summer? Here are some of our top tips on having fun in the sun while still managing your diabetes.

Wear Sunscreen!

This is the most important, and easiest, tip to remember—the best way to deal with a sunburn is to prevent one. Make sure you wear sunscreen anytime you go outside and make sure it is at least 30 SPF. Applying it once won’t be enough; make sure you reapply it regularly if you’re out in the sun for extended periods or have been in the water. Also, make sure you apply it to “out-of-the-way” areas like the tops of your feet or your hair part.

Watch Your Feet.

Diabetics are constantly being lectured about their feet—and for good reason! The bottom of your feet can get a 2nd-degree burn by walking barefoot on hot sand for just a few minutes! Be sure to wear protective footwear and inspect your feet every evening to ensure that they are in good health.

Cover Up

Keep yourself covered when possible. You can mitigate the heat by wearing lighter-colored fabrics. Hats and long sleeves provide great coverage, and sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection can protect your eyes AND make a great outfit accessory!

Watch for Wounds

If you have a wound on your skin, don’t put sunscreen on it. Instead, make sure it is cleaned and properly bandaged to ensure germs do not invade the affected skin while protecting it from the sun.

Check Your Meds

Besides making sure your insulin doesn’t cook in the summer heat, check your medications to ensure they aren’t making you more sensitive to the sun. Do a little research, and if it turns out they ARE making you more sensitive, uptick your SPF for better protection.

If You Get Burned

Some sunburns can’t be avoided, no matter how you try to prevent them. If that happens, apply a moisturizer containing aloe vera or soy to the area to help soothe the skin. Stay well-hydrated to combat any discomfort and take ibuprofen if the pain is tough to tolerate (check with your doctor first). Keep an eye on your blood sugar levels as well, since the burn can lead to hyperglycemia. If you are having trouble getting your blood sugars down, speak with your doctor.

On the other hand, your blood sugar levels can also plummet when you get a sunburn. Higher body temperatures can lower blood sugar. Heat causes blood vessels to expand; when blood vessels are expanded, the rate at which they absorb insulin increases.

If you have stacked your insulin throughout the day, that faster absorption rate means you might be bottoming out soon. In that case, make sure you have sugar tablets, juice, or gel handy!

If you have any tips or tricks for managing your blood sugar levels when the weather is hot, we would love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts on our Facebook page or Instagram.

Having trouble accessing diabetes supplies? Helping Diabetics USA is here to help! Our mission is to help uninsured and underinsured diabetics get the diabetic supplies they need at a fraction of the cost. Send us a message for more information!

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