Managing Your Diabetes During a Natural Disaster

| Nov 9, 2007

Floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, and fires strike fast, creating challenges that can be especially difficult for people with diabetes.

If you haven't planned ahead, an electrical outage, loss of water service, or damaged supplies can seriously hinder your ability to care for yourself. Fortunately, you can take steps now to ensure that a natural disaster doesn't prove disastrous to your diabetes management.

Most electric companies have programs for customers with special medical needs, including those undergoing peritoneal dialysis. To enroll, simply fill out an application for special medical needs status, perhaps accompanied by a note from your doctor verifying your condition.

Although your electric company may not be able to guarantee you special power restoration privileges in the event of an emergency, it will warn you by telephone of scheduled power outages (such as rolling blackouts), and impending disasters that might lead to extended power outages. Such warnings can give you enough time to find lodging somewhere that still has electricity.

Dialysis centers may not open during a disaster, so dialysis patients should find out ahead of time how to get treatment if their facility is closed. Peritoneal dialysis patients should also have an emergency dialysis plan. And because there is increased risk of peritonitis in disaster situations, ask your doctor about getting an emergency pack of antibiotics.

Keep in mind that the battery of your motorized wheelchair or scooter may die during a long-term power outage, leaving you stranded. An extra battery is handy, of course, but it is also wise to keep a manual wheelchair as a back-up.

Because insulin is usually refrigerated at 35 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit, insulin storage is always a concern during lengthy electrical outages. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that insulin may be stored as long as 28 days at temperatures up to 86 degrees, it may lose its potency at extreme temperatures.

Consequently, it's crucial to have a supply of ice on hand. If you find yourself without ice during an unexpected power loss, immediately go out and buy a supply. (If you're using the ice to cool your insulin, however, be sure not to let the insulin freeze.)

High heat and humidity associated with a power outage can also damage blood glucose meters and test strips. After high heat exposure, you should test your meter to ensure that its results are still accurate.

A power outage can cause a pressure drop at your local water and sewage company, leading to water contamination. Many water companies have a priority restoration service for the medically needy, but you must register ahead of time.

Some of your medical equipment may require safe water for use, cleaning, and maintenance, so it's a good idea to keep a supply of bottled water on hand. With sufficient warning, you can also fill pots, pans and your bathtub with clean water.

If bottled water is unavailable and the local water is contaminated, you may have to sterilize your water. Stockpile some chlorine tablets, iodine tablets, or household bleach to use in the event that a power outage makes it impossible to sterilize your water by boiling it.

Always keep copies of your medication prescriptions in a dry, easily-reached location so that you can grab them in the event of an evacuation. If your medication is lost during a natural disaster, Wal-Mart, Rite Aid, and many other large pharmacies may provide emergency refills.

Some pharmacies will even give you a three- to thirty-day supply of medication for free. (Remember that ATM's may not work when the electricity is out.) Ask your local pharmacy in advance how they handle emergency medication replacement.

Red Cross workers can also help by directing you to pharmacies that are still open. Many Red Cross emergency centers are staffed with doctors, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners who can take a short medical history, do a physical, and write prescriptions.

Be sure to stock up on all the supplies you might need in an emergency. Remember to include syringes, alcohol, cotton balls, insulin pump supplies, blood sugar monitoring supplies, supplies for low blood sugars, peritoneal dialysis supplies, healthy canned and ready-to-eat foods, a manual can opener, flashlights, candles, matches, batteries, and cash.

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Categories: Beginners, Blood Glucose, Blood Sugar, Diabetes, Diabetes, Food, Insulin, Insulin Pumps, Professional Issues, Syringes, Type 1 Issues

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Nov 9, 2007

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