How to Soak in a Bathtub When You Have Diabetes

According to the American Diabetes Association, 23.6 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes--sustained elevation of sugar in the blood. Numbers increase daily as Americans become obese at an alarming rate. Diet and exercise are the most effective ways to manage diabetes, but new treatment of soaking in a hot bath is gaining recognition. "DiabetesHealth" reported in a 2008 article, that Dr. Philip Hooper of the McKee Medical Center in Loveland, Colorado, conducted research for people with type 2 diabetes, and found that blood sugar levels decreased and sleep patterns were improved by daily hot tub therapy. Not all diabetes experts agree, and further study is needed, but with proper safety tools in place, diabetics can enjoy soaking in a tub and reap significant benefits.

A woman relaxing in a bath tub. (Image: Alliance/iStock/Getty Images)

Before the Bath

Step 1

Check your entire body for cuts, ulcers or sores, particularly the legs and feet. Use a full-length mirror to check the back of your body. Open wounds or breaks in the skin are pathways for bacteria to begin an infection, which is an increased danger for diabetics. Wait to enjoy your bath until all skin is intact and you are free of any infection.

Step 2

Eat a low-carbohydrate snack. Soaking in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes can reduce blood sugar levels and you could experience a sudden drop (hypoglycemia) that can leave you feeling weak, light-headed or confused. Make your snack a low-carb food that lasts in your system, rather than one that will only supply a fast sugar rush.

Step 3

Drink 8 to 10 oz. of water before you bathe. Sitting in very warm or hot water can cause you to sweat and become dehydrated quickly. Have a glass of cool water to drink within your reach as you soak.

Step 4

Test your blood sugar just before you enter the tub. If the reading is too high or too low, wait until you stabilize before you take a bath. Your numbers should be within a safe and typical range that you have previously discussed with your health care provider.

Step 5

Test the water temperature carefully. Diabetes can cause neuropathy (nerve damage) in the feet and legs, causing numbness, and burns can occur if the water is too hot. Test temperature with another part of the body, such as the wrist, or use a thermometer, keeping the water below 104 degrees F.

During and After the Bath

Step 1

Use only gentle bathing products, such bubble bath, soap, oils or shampoo. Look for "dermatologist recommended," "sensitive skin" labels or gentle baby products. Diabetes can cause the skin to dry out and become prone to rashes, scrapes or tears.

Step 2

Bathe when someone else is in the house--don't bathe alone. Soaking in hot water can bring down sugar levels and/or your blood pressure. You should not be alone as you could pass out or become confused. You may also need help getting out of the tub due to becoming light-headed. Exit the tub slowly and sit on the edge until you feel stable enough to stand up. As with any safe bath, use a rubber mat inside the tub to avoid slipping, and a non-skid surface to step on as you are leaving the tub.

Step 3

Use a high-quality lotion to moisturize your skin after you bathe. Apply lotion while skin is still slightly damp for best results.

Step 4

Test your blood sugar levels once again before going to bed and adjust insulin or oral medications accordingly.

Things You'll Need

  • Full length mirror

  • Low carbohydrate snack

  • Drinking water

  • Glucometer and supplies for testing

  • Thermometer

  • Gentle cleansing products

  • High quality lotion

  • Rubber mat

Tip

Check with your health care provider before bathing in hot water regularly. Use caution when bathing in low humidity climates. Try bathing just before bed as it can help you to sleep more soundly and comfortably.

Warning

Do not use water hotter than 104 degrees F as it can cause blisters and burns. Only use warm water for young children and the very elderly. Use caution when adding oils to bath water--it increases the risk of slipping.

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