Summer is here and so are vacations. Most of you will be planning to spend time outdoors and going on long drives. When you have diabetes, high temperature and humidity can cause serious problems. Apart from the risk of sun exposure and dehydration, people with diabetes are also at an increased risk of abnormally rising or falling blood sugar levels. Most of the hazardous eventswhile driving in people with diabetes occur due to hypoglycaemia (low blood sugars, i.e., less than 70mg/dl), and hence they need to take extra precautions, both physically and mentally, to help maximise road safety while driving.
Here are a few tips to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable drive this summer.
- Avoid dehydration.Drink plenty of fluids such as water, sugar-free iced tea, sugar-free lemonade etc. Water is best. Avoid alcohol, sports drinks and caffeinated/sugary beverages.
- Have meals on time. Avoid delaying or skipping meals. Include summer vegetables and fruits such as cucumber, tomato, green leafy vegetables, sweet lime, watermelon and guava in your diet.
- Take your medications appropriately. Store your medications in a cool place away from direct sunlight.
- Check and ensure your blood sugar levels are in the normal range before you start driving.
- Take regular breaks on long journeys. Try and plan your journeys in the day time. It is advisable to check blood sugars every 2-3 hours, especially if you are on insulin.
- Always carry a sweet, sugar candy, or a sugary drink with you in the vehicle to treat hypoglycaemia.
- Keep an identification card indicating you have diabetes in your vehicle.
- Wear your helmet/Fasten your seatbelt.
Beware of the warning signs of hypoglycaemia (hunger, thirst, sweating and giddiness).
Do not drive if you feel uneasy. If you experience uncomfortable symptoms while driving:
- Park your vehicle in a safe area as soon as possible.
- Switch off the engine, remove the keys and move out of the driving seat.
- Consume a fast-acting carbohydrate, such as a sugary drink, sweet or sugar candy.
- Follow the fast-acting carbohydrate with some long-acting carbohydrate such as a sandwich, a cup of milk or fruits.
- Check your blood sugar level if possible. Do not start driving until 45 minutes after your blood sugar level has risen to the normal range and you are free of symptoms.
Do not drive if you have:
- Frequent episodes of hypoglycaemia.
- Vision problems not corrected with glasses.
- Weakness or lack of sensation in the limbs.
- Poor realization of warning signs. Some people have few or no symptoms of hypoglycaemia. They may become confused or lose consciousness without ever recognising their blood glucose levels are dropping or low. It can happen to people who have had diabetes for many years.
Talk to your diabetes healthcare provider if you are worried about any of the above instructions. Drive responsibly. Follow traffic rules judiciously and ensure your safety when driving.