Can Sunburn Raise Blood Sugar?


Diabetes and Sunburn

Be aware that sunburn can affect your blood sugar.

With the warmer weather finally here, my wife and I headed to our community pool yesterday.  It was an overcast day, with the sun only occasionally peeking through the clouds.  I decided to forgo the sunscreen for most of the two hours we were there, eventually applying some to my shoulders an hour in.  Needless to say, it doesn’t take bright sun to give you a burn, and today I woke up a bit sore and slightly pink all over my upper body.  The strange part is that I tested my sugar both during the night and in the morning and it was much higher than normal (even after giving myself a correction bolus (dose of insulin) during the night.  This led me to wonder, “Can sunburn raise my blood sugar level?”

After doing a bit of research, I discovered that the simple answer is yes, sunburn can raise your blood sugar.  Since I’m usually pretty good about applying sunscreen, this was something that hasn’t happened often enough in the nine years that I’ve been a Type 1 diabetic for me to put two and two together.  However, since my blood sugar is now under much tighter control than it used to be, it’s easier to recognize any unexpected deviations.   Basically, what I discovered is that sunburn can stress your body and in turn raise your blood glucose just like other stresses to your body can.  As for how long you can expect your blood glucose to be elevated, some Type 1s have experienced elevated blood sugars for several days after the initial burn, likely depending in part on its severity.  I seem to have gotten mine under control within 24 hours, as it has stayed level since this afternoon.

The effects of sunburn on blood glucose should not have come as a surprise to me since the same thing happens when Type 1s get sick, which is another form of stress on the body.  Also, remember that while sunburn might eventually raise your blood sugar hours later, being out in the heat can have the opposite effect and lower your blood sugar.  Always drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and make certain that you test your blood glucose often.

2 Responses to “Can Sunburn Raise Blood Sugar?”

  1. Ann Hoadley says:

    I spend a lot of time in the sun and very rarely burn. Recently I fell asleep in hot sun sitting in my garden and after eating lunch. I awoke almost unable to walk back into house but realizing my blood sugar was very low. Unable to carry out test so immediately ate 4 glucose tablets and recovered. Was completely drained of energy for rest of day. Have been a Type 1 diabetic on insulin for 61 years and am now managing very well following a plant-based diet.

    • Kev says:

      Ann, I’m glad to hear you’re okay. Being out in the hot sun can be deceiving, especially when you’re just sitting. It’s easy to overlook that the heat alone can easily drop your blood sugar.

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