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Diabetic Beach Tips

by Karyn Michelle Wofford

Summer is flying around the corner and many of us will be packing for the beach. I’ve had diabetes for so long, prepping for a vacation doesn’t seem any different for me than for anyone else. But when preparing to lounge by the waves, there are some considerations that will make your stay as smooth as a well blended pinã colada.

Slather on the sunscreen


Completely obvious I know..but it can be tempting to accelerate your path to an island glow by skipping sun protection. And then the inevitable happens, super red, blistering skin that makes sitting down seem like an Olympic event. Those nasty blisters can also lead to nasty infections, which may heal slowly, if at all.

Sunscreen has a lot of chemicals in it, making some beach goers reluctant, but I have tried a few natural options that are mineral based and effective. You may need to reapply every couple of hours, so read instructions carefully. Try:

Babyganics Sunscreen

Honest Company Sunscreen

or All Good Zinc Sunscreen

The higher the SPF, the better.

Cover up

family summer vacation

The blazing sun not only can scorch your skin, but can cause heat stroke. Bring a beach coverup to slip on when not in the water. I like to use a surf shirt, which you can easily swim in. A beach umbrella is a must for me, but I think it’s easier to just rent one, since they are tough to fit in a car, and I certainly won’t navigate the airport with one.


Load up a cooler or, if you have deep pockets, take advantage of your hotel’s beach service. It’s easy to get caught up splashing in the waves and forget to drink up.

Protect your feet

Feeling the sand between your toes is not only relaxing, but exfoliating. But if you are walking  across scorching sand, or a mine field of broken shells, throw on some foot protection. Water shoes are important if you are swimming around reefs or other rough areas.

Keep insulin cool

I can’t count the times I’ve mindlessly tossed my insulin in a beach bag. It sits there for hours, roasting in the sun, leaving it almost, or completely ineffective. (Tip: always bring extra!) If you don’t want to drag a huge cooler to the beach, bring a lunch box loaded with cold packs to keep insulin cool. Check on it every now and then to be sure it’s okay.

Make sure all devices are waterproof

The Dexcom sensor that adheres to your body is waterproof, but secure it with Tegaderms since they tend to fall off even under normal circumstances. The receiver is NOT waterproof, so store it safely. Some insulin pumps are waterproof too, but double check with the manufacturer guidelines.

Ask the bartender to cut the sugar

Nothing beats a good cocktail while lounging by the pool, but they can be a blood sugar nightmare. Most bartenders are really helpful and will look for ways to customize your drink with less sugar. Look for frozen drinks with real juice. The ice takes up glass space and real juice is way better than syrups. Be sure to match alcohol intake with water to prevent dehydration .

Be prepared for low blood sugar

Swimming, beach volleyball and frisbee are great ways to bring blood sugar levels down. Levels may come down a little too much, so bring substantial snacks along with you, like Ona Bars , trail mixes, or even little sandwiches.

Enjoy your vacation 

Diabetes is so prevalent now. While that is unfortunate, it has raised awareness. Hotels have become extremely accommodating to those with the condition, like providing healthier meals (remember when continental breakfasts were prepackaged cinnamon rolls and cereal?! Not a good choice), exercise facilities, substituted menu items, and sometimes even sharps disposal. This awareness makes things much easier. I’ve even had a  Holiday Inn hotel staff member bring out juice and fruit after breakfast hours when my blood sugar was low. So take comfort that businesses are ready to accommodate you, be prepared and have fun!