Emergency Preparedness for Diabetes

For people who have diabetes, the ongoing situation in the Gulf Coast being wrought by Hurricane Harvey has an added level of complexity. According to Dr. Elizabeth Halprin, an endocrinologist at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston,

“Diabetes is a difficult, chronic disease to live with and those who have evacuated their homes in the Houston area as a result of Hurricane Harvey are faced with continuing the day-to-day management of diabetes despite the catastrophic situation they are faced with. A lack of supplies combined with the flooding of hospitals and pharmacies puts the diabetic population at high risk in Houston. Victims of the flooding may be without an adequate supply of insulin or in shelters without electricity to refrigerate their insulin, which can be fatal for someone with Type 1 diabetes. Increased stress can cause an elevation in blood glucose levels, which, coupled with a lack of proper drinking water can be very dangerous. Increased physical activity can also cause a drop in blood glucose levels, and without adequate diabetes-friendly foods to counteract that, there is a high risk of severe hypoglycemic events. It will be up to pharmacies, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and all members of the community to ensure that patients with chronic diseases such as diabetes have what they need to stay out of danger.”

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What can you do to ensure you’re prepared if a disaster strikes your area? According to experts, packing a diabetes emergency kit ahead of time is key. The kit should include items such as water, food, clothing and other gear that provides warmth, shelter and tools, lighting, means of communication, hygiene and first-aid items, and diabetes supplies. Lisa Katzki, RN, BSN, PHN, notes that some or all of the following medical supplies should be included in the kit:

• Extra insulin(s)
• Syringes
• Extra glucose meter
• Test strips
• Lancets and lancing device
• Insulin pump supplies
• Extra batteries for your blood glucose meter and pump
• A glucagon kit
• Ketone test strips
• Alcohol wipes
• Glucose tablets or gel

The emergency kit should be regularly reviewed, with all expired items being thrown out and replaced with fresh supplies.

According to Dr. Halprin,

“At a time when people in our country are suffering from a major natural disaster, it is good opportunity to assess how each of us would deal with such a situation. For a person with diabetes, it is particularly important to be prepared for anything that might interfere with the ability for self-care, and it is helpful to have an emergency kit ready to go at a moment’s notice.

In a water tight, insulated, portable container we suggest you keep the following:

• Keep a list of your diagnoses, medications, allergies.
• A copy of your insulin regimen.
• 30-day supply of all oral medications, insulins, glucagon, and glucose tabs. (You will need to exchange these as the expiration dates approach.)
• Blood glucose testing supplies: two meters, extra batteries.
• Small cooler with gel packs ready to go when needed.
• Container for sharps storage, such as plastic bottle with a cap.
• Treatment for hypoglycemic episodes: glucose tabs, juice boxes, hard candy.
• Nonperishable food supply: Peanut butter crackers, nutrition bars.
• Bottled water.
• First-aid supplies: Alcohol swabs, bandages, topical antibiotics.
• Extra socks, underwear, shoes.

For those living with diabetes, it is important that you are with people who know you and know your medical condition, especially during an emergency; but if that is not possible, it is important that those around you know that you have diabetes so that they can be prepared to help you.”

Want to learn more about preparing a diabetes emergency kit? Read “Disaster Preparedness and Diabetes,” “Preparing for Emergencies When You Have Diabetes.”