Taking Diabetes to the Beach

Written by Kristi Caporoso

Ah, summertime.  No school, no snow, and most importantly, the beach.  Or the pool.  Whichever you prefer.  I myself am a lake girl, but I love the ocean too.  But while most people only have to worry about sand in their hair and their beverages getting warm, as diabetics we have quite a bit more to worry about.  Sand in the pump site.  Warm insulin.  Or worse--warm juice.

Going to the beach or even laying outside by the pool can be much more of an ordeal with diabetes.  We need to keep things cool, or at least room temperature.  We need to be well stocked with supplies that could easily perish in the sun.  Some of us need to take off our lifeline just to take a dip.  And sometimes, some of us cannot feel the dip in our blood sugar that happens when we are in the water.  But don't fret.  I've been going to the beach and the lake my whole life and never let and have no intention of letting diabetes slow me down.  So here are my tips for taking your diabetes along to the beach.  Because, unfortunately, you can't really leave it behind (sorry).

Find an insulated beach bag

This not only has diabetes perks, but regular-life perks as well.  An insulated beach bag will keep your beach drinks cold, your snacks fresh, and your insulin & meter functional. If you have your eye on a regular beach bag, no problem.  You could always find a tinier insulated pouch and keep all your medical stuff in there, inside your non-insulated bag.  Whatever your choice, an insulated bag is a convenient way to keep your insulin safe, your juice tasty and cold, and your pump safe in the shade when you take it off to swim.

Set a testing schedule

Of the many things you can multitask, diabetes and swimming are not really part of them.  When you're on a pump (excluding the Omnipod), it's impossible to get insulin while swimming.  You also cannot test your blood sugar so quickly if you are floating out in the middle of a lake.  And for some of us, low blood sugars and even high blood sugars are hard to feel while splashing and floating around.  Because of this, when I go to the lake or the ocean, I get out about every hour to test and see where I'm at.  Of course, this can be a bit tricky unless you have a water-proof watch, but most people are able to eyeball the time or have someone on shore to time-check with.  If I'm extra high, I'll reconnect and give myself a bit of insulin before I go back in.  If I'm anywhere near the low hundreds and have no intention of quitting body surfing anytime soon, I'll have a snack.

Save your protection cap

If you're like me, when you change your pump site you toss away the little protection cap that comes in the packaging with the rest of the garbage.  However, these little suckers actually do come in very handy during the summer. Because what's one thing that doesn't mix? Pump sites and sand.  I had to learn the hard way that getting thrown around in the ocean often clogged my tough little pump sites with sand and prohibited me from reconnecting.  Which meant leaving the beach and finding the nearest pump site to replace it with.  Fortunately, this was never too far.  But it was still a huge pain.  Now if I go in the ocean I make sure my protection cap is clicked on, and I bring an extra pump site to the beach just in case.

Besides these major tips, there are endless little extra things to keep in mind when you are enjoying summertime shenanigans with diabetes: staying hydrated, keeping your pump under your body in the shade when you are laying out, and making sure you bring extra low supplies to whichever waterfront you prefer to go to.  Bottom line: have a plan, stay safe, and HAVE FUN.