Business of Well-being

Hot Town, Summer in the City (and Countryside): Precautions for Patients with Diabetes

Summer may be a time of weekend trips to the beach and vacations under the sun, a three-month revelry for teens and college students, and a more sedate series of evening walks and firefly nights for adults. But, for people with diabetes and on behalf of those who have loved ones with this condition, summer is not cause for celebration; it is a warning, as red and severe as the illustrations for the heat index, of the damage (to the skin and the body as a whole) that diabetics can suffer.

As a matter of corporate wellness, this issue - education about the "risks of summer," with regard to men and women with diabetes - must be a workplace priority. It must be a subject of urgency because, when nearly 10% of our citizens have Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes, those same people are our friends, colleagues and relatives; they are our coworkers, too.

To have a better sense of the magnitude of this epidemic, there are 29 million Americans with diabetes and the summer heat will not spare these individuals from its oppressive rays. So, for every employee who "likes New York in June," that person should ask a diabetic, "How about you?" I assure you, with all due apologies to Burton Lane, Ralph Freed and Frank Sinatra, someone with diabetes will wince at being in New York (or Atlanta, or Chicago or Dallas) in June, when the temperature hits triple digits.

Put aside, for a moment, the normal worries about heat stroke and dehydration, as no one is immune from these dangers; and consider, instead, the added threats that extreme temperatures can impose on the skin, as well as supplies of insulin, among those with diabetes. These threats are real. These threats are serious.

And yes, these threats can be deadly. We cannot afford, as an issue of moral justice and economic fairness, to lose these people - every life is precious - as casualties in a preventable fight against Mother Nature. We must save lives, but we must also seek to improve the quality of life among the lives we save.

That is, when it comes to the phenomenon of "diabetic itch," summer is the least friendly of seasons. The heat and desert-like environment of parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and Utah can test the patience of even the most resilient hiker or camper and it can crush patients with diabetes.

These elements can worsen already intense itching, reddening the skin like a wildfire and blistering the body like a plague. Along the mountain trails in Sedona or under the sandstone arches of the Great Basin, or even in walking through the valley of the shadow of Death Valley, there is no respite from the tyranny of the outdoors.

I write these words from experience, where, in my role as Founder of Kiss My Itch Goodbye, I strive to alleviate the itching sensation that can strike diabetics and non-diabetics alike. I would be remiss if I did not also mention that, as a resident of the District of Columbia, summer in the nation's capital is anything but an extended holiday. Indeed, if the late Gore Vidal is right, that heat may be the only restorative for the political health of our country. He says:

"Before air conditioning, Washington was deserted from mid-June to September. The president - always Franklin Roosevelt - headed up the Hudson and all of Congress went home. But since air conditioning and the Second World War arrived, more or less at the same time, Congress sits and sits while the presidents and their staff never stop making mischief."

As for the mischief of summer heat, my advice is straightforward: Have the right organic resources, in your pocket, purse, backpack or gear, so you can be safe and healthy. Revolutionary advice, no; potentially lifesaving wisdom, yes. I prefer to emphasize practical solutions, like encouraging people to drink plenty of water (and to always have a bottle or canteen at their side), as the simplest - and most effective - way not to succumb to the delirium of dehydration.

I prefer to remind people to apply a strong sun block to their skin, rather than having them rushed to an emergency room for heat stroke or exhaustion. I prefer to inform patients with diabetes to always carry enough medication; to understand the effects of heat on insulin, and to never be without a glucose monitor or glucose test strip.

I prefer wellness to weakness, obviously; and I prefer prevention as opposed to mindlessly filling piles of prescriptions. I prefer a joyous spring to a sorrowful summer. I prefer, finally, peace of mind and good health to all.

About the Author

Merry Richon is an entrepreneur and the Founder of Kiss My Itch Goodbye, an all-natural and holistic means of alleviating the itching sensation caused by variety of external factors.

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