Diabetes and the heat – an increased challenge

For many of us these last few weeks of sunshine and heat has been very welcomed. However, for those living with diabetes it can make managing blood glucose levels a challenge. Are workplaces ensuring staff have the correct time they need to take care of their health and stay hydrated?
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As the NHS send out information* about diabetes control and heat, they have started that “with more than one in 17 people in the UK affected by diabetes, it’s important to know how to manage the condition in the hot weather. People with diabetes can be affected in different ways by the heat. It can cause unexpected blood glucose levels to rise (hyperglycaemia) or fall (hypoglycaemia – hypos)”. A hypo can cause people to act as if drunk or pass out, this is a serious risk on sites and in areas where there is heavy machinery. 

It has been suggested that the heat can affect people living with diabetes in different ways, such as:

  • longer periods of inactivity in the hot weather which can make blood glucose levels higher than usual,
  • if someone is taking insulin, it is absorbed more quickly from the injection site, so the skin has an increased blood supply, which makes the likelihood of hypos greater.

It is important for companies to ensure they are supporting their staff by providing correct breaks and times to re-hydrate. It is especially significant for those working outside and on machinery that is not air conditioned. These are temperatures we often don’t see in the UK, they could have a significant impact on health and pose an increased risk in the workplace.

Professor Anne Phillips from Birmingham City University says ‘Hot weather can be extremely challenging to work in for many people, but for people with diabetes it causes extra challenges that do need extra attention in terms of keeping well hydrated and managing blood glucose fluctuations caused by the heat’

The NHS are suggesting that people ensure they understand the symptoms of high and low blood glucose levels and test regularly so they can remedy quickly and avoid serious problems. We encourage companies to keep speaking with staff, ensuring they support their needs and keep the workplace safe. With the right questions and support, we can all enjoy this wonderful weather and get home safely every night.


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