September 13, 2018
Hurricane Florence is headed toward the East Coast, and if you’re in the storm’s path, you’re undoubtedly preparing for what could be a catastrophic weather event. This includes stocking up on nonperishable food, water, and batteries, boarding up windows, and securing or stowing outdoor furniture.
But if you have diabetes, storm preparation goes beyond the basics. Whether you’re living with type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, or gestational diabetes, you must take extra precautions to manage your condition in a disaster.
To stay safe and healthy, follow these hurricane preparation tips if you have diabetes.
1. Stock Up on Your Diabetes Medication Supply and Keep a Record of It
The first thing you should do is check your stock of medication and supplies to ensure you have enough; and if you don’t, call in a refill before disaster hits, says Deborah Malkoff-Cohen, RD, CDE, who is based in New York City.
You’ll need oral medication, insulin, emergency glucagon if you have type 1, chargers, syringes, lancets, and test strips, as well as an empty bottle to dispose of used supplies.
Also, don’t forget extra batteries for your glucometer so you can monitor and log your blood glucose, the New Jersey Department of Health advises.
Even if you’re riding out the storm at home, pack these items in a waterproof, insulated emergency bag that can be grabbed if you must leave in a hurry.
“Pack at least seven extra days of medication and supplies, and if you only use an insulin pump, make sure you write down the settings for the pump and have a backup in case the pump stops working: syringes to draw up from your Humalog or Novolog vial or a Novolog/Humalog pen,” notes Malkoff-Cohen, in line with advice from the Joslin Diabetes Center and the American Diabetes Association.
If you lose power, it may take days for electricity to be restored, making it difficult to refrigerate insulin. Be prepared with a cooler.
Use ice or a reusable cooling pack to keep insulin cool instead of dry ice, which can freeze the medication, Diabetes Forecast notes.
Also, don’t rely on your memory during a disaster. Malkoff-Cohen says your emergency bag should include your health insurance card, copies of prescriptions, proof of your diagnosis and contact numbers for essential contacts including family members, friends, your primary care doctor, your pharmacy, your registered dietitian, and your endocrinologist.
2. Load Up on Nonperishable Carbs to Help Prevent Low Blood Sugar
Having a stockpile of nonperishable foods and water ahead of a hurricane may sound obvious. But if you have diabetes, certain types of nonperishable foods are a must-have in your pantry or emergency go bag.
Hurricanes are stressful — before, during, and after. Because stress alone can raise your blood sugar, you need a good mix of nonperishable carbs and protein to help stabilize your blood sugar, says Malkoff-Cohen. She recommends peanut butter crackers, beef jerky, canned beans, nuts and seeds, trail mix, whole-grain crackers, granola bars, and meal replacement bars.
It’s also a good idea to stock up on fast-acting carbohydrates like glucose tabs or chewable sugar, which can be true life-savers if you’re experiencing hypoglycemia, says Haley Hughes, RD, CDE, who is in private practice in Greenley, Colorado.
People living with diabetes are also prone to dehydration, so make sure each person has a three- to four-day supply of water, advises Diabetes.co.uk.
3. Prepare for Accidents and Injury, Especially if You Have Known Foot Problems
Injury can happen during disasters. If you have diabetes, a seemingly minor cut on your foot could become infected without proper care.
Make sure you have antibiotic creams, cotton swabs, bandages, as well as hand sanitizer and alcohol wipes, says Hughes.
“It’s also important to keep feet covered and safe to prevent infections,” urges Malkoff-Cohen. So wear shoes at all times when outdoors or when walking through standing water.
Check your feet daily for cuts, blisters, or open sores, and get medical help if you have signs of an infection — swelling, pain, redness, fever, or drainage, notes the New Jersey Department of Health.
4. Consider Evacuating Your Home, Even if It Isn’t Required
Even if you don’t receive mandatory evacuation orders, you might consider voluntarily leaving if your area has a history of power outages or flooding. “It’s a personal choice, but you should always opt for the safest outcome and evacuate if you have multiple ailments, trouble ambulating or breathing, or if you’re on multiple medications,” says Malkoff-Cohen.
If you stay home, be mindful that flooding can make it harder for first responders to reach your home in an emergency, she adds.
5. Be Prepared if You’re Staying in a Hurricane Shelter
If you’re headed to a local shelter, keep your medication and supplies with you at all times to avoid theft or loss, and don’t skip meals, which can wreak havoc on your blood sugar. Bring your own food supply with you just in case, the New Jersey Department of Health advises.
“Having some type of identification information, like a bracelet or necklace, can also be helpful in an emergency situation,” says Hughes. An ID badge shouldn’t only identify who you are, but also alert others of your condition if you experience an emergency and can’t communicate.
6. Take Care of Your Kidneys, Particularly if You’ve Been Diagnosed With a Kidney Problem
A natural disaster may prevent you from getting to a dialysis center. Until you’re able to resume treatments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends following the 3-Day Emergency Diet. This diet can reduce the amount of waste in your blood.
If you have a home dialysis machine, get a backup emergency generator in the event of a power outage. Also, notify your power company ahead of the storm and be added to their “priority reconnection service” list, advises the Americans with Disabilities Act National Network.
A Final Word on Preparing for Hurricanes When You Have Diabetes
It’s critical that you’re able to access medication, food, and water in a hurricane — or any disaster, for that matter. The sooner you act, the better. And remember, you can never be too prepared for these types of situations.