Sean Kelley is senior editor at Health.com, and author of the “Poked & Prodded” blog. He takes insulin and lives in hot weather and… well, I’ll let him tell you…
A Guest Post by Sean Kelley, PWD at Health.com
Every summer I go through the same dilemma: What to do with my diabetes gear (glucose meter and medications) when I’m playing golf? For those of you living in milder climates, this may not seem like much of a challenge, but in July and August temperatures in Alabama, where I live, can easily exceed 100 degrees. (Don’t get me started on the humidity!)
Just managing my diabetes under such circumstances is a challenge. Because I walk and carry a 40-pound bag, I burn a ton of calories. Last year, I wore a device that measured caloric burn on one mountainous course I frequently play. During the 4-hour round I burned 1,100 calories.
I’ve been known to go low on such days — not in strokes but in mg/dl. Last summer, I crashed on the 18th hole; a marshall got me to the clubhouse before a ride to the hospital became necessary. Because it was hot, my meter and supplies were 30 minutes away in the air-conditioned confines of my house. (I know, rookie mistake!)
Managing such swings in blood sugar really requires having my monitor with me at the course, of course — not at home keeping cool. But where do you put it to keep it same?
Manufacturers generally recommend you keep your monitor out of the heat (or cold); a couple of monitors maintain their accuracy above 100 degrees (mine doesn’t). Test strips also aren’t supposed to be exposed to extreme heat. And the meds I’ve been taking are all supposed to be kept under 100 degrees (if not under 85 degrees).
If leaving my gear at home isn’t an option, neither is leaving it in the car. A study published in Pediatrics in 2005 found that a car’s interior can heat up by an average of 40 degrees within an hour. On a sunny Alabama day in August, you can slow roast a pork shoulder in that kind of heat.
My golf bag doesn’t offer much greater refuge than the car: On the course, temps inside get hot enough to turn sun tan lotion watery and melt my candy (my hypoglycemic fix) down into pools of its components. I’d rather not find out if it’s hot enough to warp my meter strips.
So what am I doing to stay safe and keep my gear cool as this summer heats up? I’m still experimenting, but for now I’m packing frozen cool packs in a pocket on my golf bag, hoping the ambient temperature around my insulin and meter will keep them cool.
If that doesn’t work out, I may buy an insulin cooler large enough to accommodate my meter but small enough to fit in my bag. (Lots of colorful options exist wherever you buy diabetic supplies.)
Or I may start dropping my gear at the clubhouse. I hate to be away from my meter in case I feel the telltale signs of a reaction coming on, but they’re only a phone call away and it’s better than getting a bad reading or scorching the effectiveness of meds.
So, how do you handle your gear when the heat is on and you’re at the beach, on the course or just hanging out around the pool?