Soaring temperatures aren’t just sticky and uncomfortable– they’re also life-threatening for older folks, people with disabilities, and those suffering from diabetes. “Studies have shown that during heat waves, patients with diabetes have more hospitalizations, more emergency room visits, and higher rates of mortality,” says Curtiss B. Cook MD, FACP, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine as well as a consultant in endocrinology at the Mayo Clinic. “Why that is isn’t clear, but it does show that these people are at greater risk for health problems during hot weather.”
Dr. Cook presented a study regarding type 2 diabetes patients and how much they know about proper self-care, as well as how to handle medications during hot weather. His research finds that there is a sufficient lack of both understanding and general education among patients regarding how to adequately deal with warmer temperatures.
Dr. Cook and his team used a survey of patients suffering from diabetes who went to a Southwestern U.S. diabetes clinic. The survey questioned how much the patients knew about “safe” temperatures for housing medications, as well as their ability to interpret weather information. The mean age of the 169 participants was 66, with about half of them being men and the other half being women. Most subjects had type 2 diabetes. Sixty-eight percent of subjects limited their exposure to heat on hot days to under one hour, while 32 percent failed to do so. Furthermore, 36 percent of patients simply left medications or supplies at home when they had to go out somewhere, instead of carrying them in a cooler so the supplies were there in case they were needed. Finally, 72 percent of them were aware that heat could impact insulin, but 60 percent weren’t aware that heat could impact other diabetes supplies, too, like glucose monitors and strips.
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