Protecting Your Diabetes Supplies during the Summer Months

For many people, summertime means time at the pool, days at the beach, backyard barbecues, and outside fun with family and friends!  During the hot summer months, you want to make sure you protect your diabetes supplies and equipment.  Heat can have negative impacts on your oral medication, insulin, blood glucose meter, and test strips.  Let’s take a look at some tips to keep your diabetes supplies safe during the hot summer months!

Insulin

Insulin can become damaged and ineffective in extreme heat.  Be sure to keep insulin pens and insulin vials refrigerated. . If you don’t have access to a refrigerator, it is perfectly fine to carry these supplies with you during the day unrefrigerated, just as long as you’re careful to keep them out of direct sunlight, and in a cool environment.  On the other hand, never store insulin next to a frozen ice pack—freezing will ruin the insulin.  Be sure to look at the medication insert for specific information on temperature thresholds for your specific insulin.

Oral Medications

Heat can also harm the effectiveness of oral diabetes medications.  Most oral medications have a therapeutic temperature range above which they don’t work as well.  Look at the medication insert for specific information on heat thresholds for you oral diabetes medications.

Blood Glucose Meter

Your blood glucose meter plays an important role in caring for your diabetes, so you want to be sure to take good care of it.  That means you should never expose it to extreme temperatures, whether that may be freezing cold, or intense heat. During the hot summer months, you don’t want to keep your meter in your car since cars can get extremely hot.  Always keep it in a cool dry place.

Test Strips

Test strips are another important tool in caring for diabetes, and we know how costly they are too.  You need protect your investment and never expose test strips to heat, which can leave the test strips working incorrectly.  Never leave your strips exposed to extreme temperatures, and always close the cap on a canister of test strips. Keeping the lid closed at all times will protect the integrity of the strips, and also keep out moisture.

 

Whitney Roberts, RD, CDE

Fit4D CDE

Are Two Hats Better Than One?

We all have many hats that we wear in our lives  – parent, partner, colleague, community member etc. For me, two of my most important roles are that of being a mother and a Diabetes Educator.  The fact that my son has type 1 diabetes means that these roles intersect and overlap on a regular basis.

I often wonder how my job affects the way I parent and vice versa, and I often ask myself; is all this overlap a good thing?

As a diabetes educator, learning about and working with the latest diabetes management technologies and insulin therapy options are part of my daily routine. This gives me the opportunity to get detailed information about different diabetes self-management tools and regimens and make assessments about which ones fit well with my son’s diabetes management.


The “Holy Grail”

When I first started my career as a diabetes educator, I found myself thinking that I could outsmart this disease. If I learned enough, incorporated the latest tools, managed things closely – I could achieve “target” blood sugars for my son and protect him from any potential complications.  As I got further in my diabetes education, I came to truly understand why achieving the holy grail of blood sugar management, the “perfect blood sugar”,  with today’s treatment options just was not realistic.

The pancreas is an amazing organ and able to seamlessly manage the 28+ factors that influence our blood sugar levels. To say that being the pancreas for your child from the outside-in is hard would be the understatement of the century.  Not only is it hard, but it is near impossible to do it perfectly.

So while I know that keeping blood sugars in the target range for the majority of the time will protect my son from diabetes complications, I now use my knowledge as a diabetes educator to inform my decisions and expectations about realistic diabetes management goals for a nine-year-old boy. For instance, changing the lancet every time he checks his blood sugar isn’t one of them. Never having blood sugars spike above 200 isn’t one of them. 

Turning Emotions into Manageable Data

I’ve learned to emotionally distance myself from individual blood sugar readings and look at them as data points with patterns and trends that I can use as a basis to make adjustments to pump settings, timing of insulin or food choices. 

Experiencing the day-to-day challenges and frustrations of diabetes management allows me to connect with my patients from a place of “knowing what it’s like”. I believe the fact that I really do know how hard DM can be helps me form a partnership with my patients to reach their DM health goals. This feels way different than just looking at the numbers or policing their food intake.

Perspective

But there’s another side to wearing the two hats of mother and diabetes educator.  As an educator working on the endocrinology unit at a children’s hospital in a major city, I’ve seen and worked with kids in intensive care due to Diabetes Ketoacidosis (DKA).  Sadly, many of them I see time and time again. I’ve had to see firsthand the devastating impact of severe hypoglycemic events.

Even when we’re in a “smooth” diabetes period at home (proving that everything in life is relative), working in the hospital reminds me how quickly things can go wrong with diabetes management. I know that most kids living with type 1 diabetes are happy, thriving and living life exactly as they were meant to live it. But logic doesn’t always win – the reality is, every time I work with a child struggling with life with diabetes I can’t help but worry about my son and experience a moment of grief that he has to rise to face this challenge every single day – no exceptions, no vacations.

 
It’s All About Community

Whether I was a CDE or not, I believe I would be actively involved with the diabetes community. Being part of the community is a great source of emotional strength. There is so much to be gained from the resilience and energy of others and the knowledge that you’re not in this alone.

I feel that staying connected with other type 1 parents (who aren’t CDEs) helps me stay grounded first and foremost in being the best parent I can be for my kids – with and without diabetes. No one knows your child like you do and learning to trust your instincts – even when it comes to diabetes management decisions – is critical. 

There is no single perfect way to do diabetes management. The best gift you can give your child with diabetes is to become their advocate in finding the diabetes management plan that best fits their life and not to make them slaves to the latest study of best practices of diabetes management.

Studies may show that overall, people wearing insulin pumps have better blood sugar control than those who use multiple daily injections but if it’s bathing suit season and you have a teenage daughter – you may find that wearing an insulin pump that sits in the pool bag all day isn’t the way to go. Kids first – diabetes second. 

Life with diabetes is a marathon – not a single three-month A1c test. Let your kids make choices where you can and push your diabetes health care team to provide you with options so you can make decisions that will allow your kid to continue to pursue what’s important to them while managing their blood sugars.

As a mom, I can imagine a conversation some years in the future where my son tells me that he and his wife have discussed it and they feel it’s inappropriate for me to continue to come over to change his infusion sets. As a diabetes educator, I know that my ultimate goal is to equip him, and my patients, with the best self-management skills and the confidence to become their own health advocates.  

At the end of the day, it’s a tremendous honor and responsibility to wear these hats and I’m grateful to have the benefit of dedicated experts, patients and parents to help me on my journey to improve the lives of people living with diabetes.

 Jackson-8

Written by:

Diane Herbert MSS, LSW

Fit4D Clinical Manager

Helping Patients with Pattern Management

Many of my patients understand the importance of monitoring their blood sugars. Many will even write them down and a few will even remember to take them to their diabetes visits with their physician. When I start discussing pattern management with my patients they often give me a blank look. After checking their blood sugars, they seem to know very little about where to go from there.

What do these numbers mean? What is the purpose beyond “that’s what my Dr. wants me to do?” Pattern management is not something that physicians often have the time to teach at their 10 minute encounters, and is one way in which CDEs can be very helpful. Sitting down with a patient and reviewing blood sugar records is of vital importance for patients to better understand their diabetes.

When looking at a blood sugar record keeping it well organized is key to making sense of the maze of numbers. It’s also very important to write the blood value in relationship to a meal. Was it before a meal? After a meal? 2 hours after or 10 minutes after? All these details are very important to understanding a glucose log and working to finding patterns. I’ve found many of my patients will write the time of day they check their blood sugar, but it’s impossible to tell if this is before breakfast, after breakfast, after exercise, etc. These details are so important to pattern management.

I always ask my patients to give me a good idea of their fasting numbers. Once they’ve established a good range or their individualized range, then we typically move on to testing 2 hours after the start of a meal. Also, I ask them to vary the meals they test after to give added information. I have them write all of their values down and return to me for follow-up. When the patient walks in my office we work to begin to “decode” the log. We look at reasons a fasting number might have been high. Next, we look at after meals and evaluate what was eaten to decode the “spike” after dinner. We also look at how stress and exercise affected the numbers.

I can almost see their eyes opening and they begin to understand those numbers versus just writing them down. They start to understand why it was lower and why it may have “spiked.” Those “light bulb” moments are the reason CDEs do the work they do and with passion. Teaching patients to begin working to manage their own disease is the goal. Decoding the numbers and working to understand their diabetes better is rewarding for them. For a patient to really understand why they are checking their blood sugar and what the purpose of each number means helps motivate them toward better care.

I think that sometimes as educators we get caught up in the things we “need to teach.” I find that pattern management is always something we can touch on with our patients no matter the duration of their diabetes or where they’re at now. It’s all about baby steps. You may ask them to begin testing once a week and move up from there. It may not always be the smooth process we envision, but be sure to focus on their accomplishments with their diabetes care. Just the fact that they came to see you shows they’re motivated toward better care!

 

Written by:

Jessica Miller, RD, CDE

Fit4D CDE