Diabetes and Disaster Preparedness

It’s heart-wrenching to watch all that people go through as natural disasters play out on our television screens. Tucked away, along with sympathy for those in the midst of a hurricane, earthquake, flood or other catastrophic events, is the very understandable thought, “I’m so glad that’s not happening to me!”. The truth is, however, that we are all susceptible to major life-changing events, and they can happen with very little notice. Those with a chronic medical condition, like diabetes, are especially vulnerable and should take seriously the advice to be prepared.   

Even if you don’t live on the coast or near a river that is prone to flooding, everyone is susceptible to a life-threatening event — tornado, blizzard, wildfire, earthquake, chemical explosion and the list goes on. For those with diabetes, it is extremely important to have a diabetic-specific disaster preparedness kit ready to go in an instant, which may be all the time you have. Make sure that it is insulated and waterproof. Some of the recommended items to include are:

  • List of all medical conditions, current and prior
  • List of current health care providers, including contact information
  • Information about your diabetes
    • including past and present medications
    • Adverse reactions to medications
    • present diabetes complications
    • Letter from physician, detailing diabetes regimen (especially for insulin) and copy of most recent lab results
  • Medication list, pharmacy with contact information and all active prescriptions
  • 30-day supply of diabetes and other medications, including insulin, oral diabetes medications and a glucagon emergency kit (if prescribed)
  • Glucose tabs or other treatment for low blood glucose
  • Testing supplies, (make sure they have not expired), testing meter (two are recommended), with fresh batteries
  • At least four re-freezable gel packs for storing insulin in a cooler
  • Container for syringes, needles and lancet disposal
  • For those with an insulin pump, infusion supplies, and batteries

Of course, it is also important to have the more general and basic emergency supplies on hand and ready to go. Some of the most commonly recommended include:

  • Battery or crank-operated radio
  • Flashlight
  • Battery-powered cell phone charger
  • Batteries
  • Candles and matches
  • First-aid kit
  • Hygiene supplies
  • Important documents (insurance cards, titles, birth certificates, etc.)
  • Water and food
  • Blankets

Important to Keep in Mind
Major disruptions of routine are stressful and natural disasters of any kind certainly fall into this category. Stress can be dangerous for everyone, but it is particularly so for diabetics, as it tends to raise blood sugar levels. This makes it even more important to be ready, have the necessary supplies and pay attention.

In addition to fluctuating glucose levels, these types of situations make injuries and infections more likely. In managing your diabetes and protecting your health, awareness may well belong on the very top of your preparedness list.