If you or someone you love is one of the 29 million Americans with diabetes, it’s important to be aware of the unique challenges that diabetics face during emergency situations. November is American Diabetes Month, a good time to review your emergency preparedness plans and make sure you’re ready to face potential challenges and protect your health, even in difficult circumstances.
Challenge #1: No Power = No Refrigeration. Drug manufacturers recommend that insulin be stored in a refrigerator between 36 and 46 F. In the wake of an ice storm or other severe weather event, you may lose power for an extended period of time. So how should you store insulin? According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, insulin products may be left unrefrigerated (between 59 and 86 F) for up to 28 days. The key is to keep insulin as cool as possible, storing it away from direct heat and out of direct sunlight. Also, be sure to check with your pharmacist for additional information about appropriate storage for your specific medications.
Challenge #2: Erratic mealtimes can cause changes in blood sugar. Emergency situations upend our lives, not to mention our mealtime routines. For diabetics, a delayed meal can become a serious situation, wreaking havoc on blood sugar levels. Face this challenge head on by stocking a three-day supply of healthful food and water. During an emergency, do your best to eat on time and never skip a meal. If you cannot eat solid food because you are sick, sip regular (not diet) soft drinks or eat hard candies or fruit. Do not let yourself get dehydrated.
Challenge #3: Diabetes management requires specialized supplies. In addition to the list of standard Ready kit items, it’s critical to stock supplies needed to manage diabetes in the days following an emergency. You should keep an extra bottle of each type of insulin that you use on hand at all times and put a copy of your emergency information and list of medicines in your Ready kit, along with:
• A meter to measure blood sugar and extra strips
• Blood sugar diary
• Insulin pump supplies (if on insulin pump) and extra batteries
• Urine ketone testing strips
• Lancing device and lancets
• Glucagon Emergency Kit (if on insulin)
• Empty hard plastic detergent bottle with cap to dispose used lancets
Managing risk is nothing new to people who live with diabetes. Take time this month to apply those skills to your emergency preparedness, ensuring that you’re ready for whatever emergency situation you may face.