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Tips for managing diabetes during socially-distant summer gatherings

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April Blackwell

Living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) doesn't mean you have to miss out on all of the delicious socially-distant events and activities happening this summer! You're still able to master your sourdough starter, refine your favorite quarantine cocktail and do many of the other things you want — like safely getting together with family and friends — you just need to take a different approach in some regards.

Managing diabetes is never effortless, but spending a few minutes to prepare before you head out the door will give you the confidence to safely enjoy the sweet tastes of summer. Here are a few tips I try to abide by when heading to summertime gatherings with friends and family.

Prioritize hydration

Growing up in Arizona, consistently drinking water was ingrained from birth. Now I live in Texas, and I'm never without a water bottle. The best thing you can do to manage diabetes at summer gatherings has nothing to do with food! Staying hydrated with plain old water is one of the simplest methods to keep blood sugars stable.

Essentially, dehydration leads to lower blood volume, which means any glucose in the bloodstream becomes concentrated. For someone living with T1D, this can result in higher blood sugars. And high blood sugars are the last thing you want while staring down a buffet of summertime treats!

Pair up with a "designated buddy"

As people living with T1D, we're often told to designate a buddy during events and activities. Summer gatherings are no different. A diabetes-wise buddy will check in on you periodically, help keep a stash of diabetes-friendly snacks on hand and ensure you are staying hydrated.

Make sure your designated buddy has a grasp on what is "normal" behavior for you and what may be indications of hypo- or hyperglycemia. Chat with them before the gathering to make sure they know how to inject glucagon and are aware of where it will be located at the event.

Leverage diabetes hacks

Before you grab your swimsuit and sunscreen, grab a plastic drinking cup and a measuring cup. Measure out a cup of your favorite beverage or snack and then dump it in the plastic cup. Mark a mental note where the one-cup-quantity falls and use this to your advantage at the party! Instead of bringing cumbersome measuring cups or asking the host to dig theirs out, you can use the plastic cups to estimate quantities and dose insulin accordingly.

Are you planning to graze on those delicious brownies, watermelon slices and fruit punch? Of course you are. In situations like this, I like to set a temporary basal increase on my insulin pump, as it helps cover periods where I predict I will be casually consuming carbohydrates. This way, I have a safety net if I underestimate the number of carbohydrates I have eaten. If you think this strategy may work for you, it's best to consult your doctor and determine the right way to implement this practice into your daily life.

BYO-Snacks

As someone with diabetes, you have a great excuse to bring your own snacks. Don't hesitate to take advantage! Pack some goodies that you enjoy (and that will survive in the sun). Since you're bringing your own anyway, throw in a variety of both low and high carbohydrate options. Granola bars and beef jerky are some great choices.

Better yet, ask if you can bring a snack tray to share, then stock it with items that have predetermined carbohydrate counts. This will allow you to snack right along with everyone else while accurately dosing insulin!

Focus on playing it safe

If bringing your own snacks is outside of your comfort zone or just not feasible, make smart choices about the party snacks you choose to consume. If my blood sugar is high, I like to aim for low carbohydrate options like cheese and meat plates or veggie trays. Alternatively, a low blood sugar reading means I can choose options from the fruit tray, assortment of chips or dessert table.

I usually try to avoid mystery salads and "grandma's recipe" treats. These snack options often include hidden ingredients that are hard to predict, which can lead to unpredictable blood sugars. Sometimes it's best to play it safe!

For a person living with and managing diabetes, summer parties and the associated smorgasbord may seem daunting — but with just a few minutes of preparation and hydration, you can relax and enjoy! You don't have to let your diabetes hold you back from having fun and making special memories with loved ones.

Looking for new ways to manage your diabetes on a daily basis? Check out the array of continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) available through the Edgepark website.

April Blackwell

April Blackwell is an aerospace engineer who works as an Attitude Determination and Control Officer in the International Space Station mission control center. She has lived with Type 1 Diabetes for over 20 years and is a passionate advocate with the hope to inspire everyone to reach for their dreams regardless of medical status.

Social Media links: https://www.instagram.com/nerdyapril/ https://www.facebook.com/nerdyapril

Diabetes Management Tip