Seven Tips for People with Diabetes to Avoid Heat-Related Illnesses this Summer

  • UnitedHealth Group’s Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance is raising awareness about the dangers of heat and humidity for people with diabetes

This summer, as temperatures rise and many people head outdoors to the beach or parks, UnitedHealth Group’s Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance (DPCA) wants to alert the nearly 24 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes that they have a higher risk of developing serious, heat-related illnesses.

A recent study from the Mayo Clinic found that one in five people with diabetes does not take preventive measures to deal with the heat until temperatures reach 100 degrees – which is often too late to avoid serious complications.

“While summer can be a great time to get in shape and enjoy the outdoors, individuals with diabetes should take extra measures to avoid serious, heat-related illness,” said Deneen Vojta, M.D., senior vice president of the UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform and Modernization and co-creator of the DPCA. “Because diabetes can impair a person’s ability to sweat, hot, humid weather can dangerously reduce the body’s capacity to regulate blood sugar levels. It is critical that people with this disease take proper precautions to avoid potentially life-threatening conditions like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.”

To avoid these serious heat-related illnesses, the DPCA advises people with diabetes to take these seven precautions:

1. Check your blood sugar levels often. Many people tend to be more active in the summer months, and changes in activity and heat levels can affect your body’s insulin needs.

2. Avoid sunburn. Wear plenty of sun block to avoid sunburn, which can tax your body and cause blood glucose levels to rise.

3. Stay hydrated. It is important to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, which will place further stress on your body and affect glucose levels.

4. Stay cool. If possible, take breaks from the heat in air-conditioned areas or designated cooling centers. Make sure to exercise in an air-conditioned place.

5. Avoid caffeine and alcohol in high temperatures. Both alcohol and caffeine can increase the risk of dehydration for people with diabetes.

6. Keep medication and supplies as cool as possible, and away from direct sunlight. Extreme temperatures can cause insulin and other supplies to break down or become less potent.

7. Be alert for signs of heat exhaustion. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists these signals as common signs of heat exhaustion: heavy sweating; paleness; muscle cramps; tiredness; weakness; dizziness; headache; nausea or vomiting; and/or fainting. If you or someone you know who has diabetes experiences any of these symptoms, seek medical attention right away.

The DPCA is an innovative partnership between UnitedHealth Group, YMCA of the USA and retail pharmacies beginning with Walgreens, to combat Type 2 diabetes – one of the nation’s most serious and expensive medical issues. This Alliance is based on research funded by the CDC and the National Institutes of Health that demonstrated that lifestyle intervention and exercise can reduce the chances of developing diabetes, and marks the first time in the country that a health plan is paying for evidence-based diabetes prevention in addition to engaging pharmacists to deliver critical control programs for the disease.

About UnitedHealth Group
UnitedHealth Group ( is a diversified health and well-being company dedicated to helping people live healthier lives and making health care work better. With headquarters in Minnetonka, Minn., UnitedHealth Group offers a broad spectrum of health benefit programs through UnitedHealthcare, Ovations and AmeriChoice, and health services through Ingenix, OptumHealth and Prescription Solutions. Through its family of businesses, UnitedHealth Group serves more than 75 million people nationwide.