If you have special needs, or are otherwise worried about having an emergency in the home, there are many personal emergency response systems (PERS) available. These usually involve a button kept in the home that you press if you are having an emergency, which notifies a response team to come to your house. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) publishes information on choosing the right PERS, which you can access by visiting their Web site at www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/services/pers.htm. You can also call the FTC toll-free at (877) 382-4357.
Ensure that your important medical information is accessible in the event of an emergency. Carry identification that lists your name and medical condition. In addition to your ID, make up a card or sheet that lists the names of your emergency contacts and the name and telephone number of your primary-care doctor. Be sure to let people know that you have listed them as an emergency contact, and give them the name and phone number of your doctor. On the card, list your current medicines (prescription as well as nonprescription) and medical conditions. In addition to carrying this information with you, keep a copy at home, perhaps in an envelope posted on the refrigerator or near the telephone. Some people also choose to prepare an emergency “ready bag” complete with diabetes and emergency supplies in case a quick evacuation from the home is necessary.
Being sick is a physical stress on the body that usually causes blood glucose levels to rise, even if you are not eating. This means it’s important to continue taking any insulin or medicine that you usually take (and possibly more, if directed to by your doctor). It is also important to continue monitoring your blood glucose level so you can respond to out-of-range levels and catch any problems before they become major. If your blood glucose levels do seem out of control and you are not sure how to treat the problem, call your health-care provider.
Because managing your diabetes requires certain supplies, and because you will probably not want to go shopping for these supplies when you are sick, it’s a good idea to stock up on sick-day necessities ahead of time, when you are well.
What are these necessities? You will need all the supplies you usually use, such as pills, insulin, syringes or pump supplies, test strips, and lancets. There are also certain food products that are good to have on hand for a sick day, such as bottled water, juice, Jell-O, soup, and other healthy, shelf-stable foods that are palatable when you’re sick. Other items that may be useful to have on hand include antinausea drugs such as Pepto-Bismol or the prescription drug prochlorperazine (Compazine), which comes as a suppository; antidiarrheal remedies such as Imodium A-D or the prescription medicine diphenoxylate and atropine (Lomotil); regular soda or Gatorade with sugar; ketone testing supplies, particularly for people with Type 1 diabetes; and glucagon, which is not made to be self-administered but is still recommended for people who live alone.
When you are sick, you don’t want to be searching around your house for important phone numbers, so keep a list of all the phone numbers you might need in a place where you can find it easily. These phone numbers might include your doctors, neighbors, local emergency services, or your medical insurance company. If you have home-delivery grocery stores or pharmacies in your area, make a note of these phone numbers as well.
Signs indicating that you need to seek help immediately include persistent vomiting or diarrhea, moderate to high ketone levels, high blood glucose (over 300 mg/dl) that doesn’t respond to treatment, sleepiness and confusion, shortness of breath, or losing more than three pounds in a 24-hour period.