Disaster Preparation Tips for Diabetes
INDIANAPOLIS With hurricane and tornado season in full force, Eli Lilly and Co. offers tips for people with diabetes to help limit interruption of their medical treatment if disaster strikes.
People with chronic medical conditions that require daily medications are among the most vulnerable victims of natural disasters, as access to their homes, medical supplies and even medicines may be interrupted or compromised.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina last summer, people with diabetes faced particular challenges, especially those using insulin. Stress and erratic eating patterns can change blood sugar levels, and the chaos of a disaster or catastrophic event can confuse these routines and potentially seriously affect the health of people with diabetes.
"Patients with diabetes, especially those taking insulin injections, should make sure to have a reserve supply of medication and supplies for a period of several weeks in the event of a major disaster or evacuation," said Dr. Carlos R. Hamilton, past president, American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists. "Experience with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 taught us that medical services, including pharmacies, may not be available and emergency care in shelters may lack the ability to give insulin injections. These emergency supplies should include equipment for self-monitoring of blood glucose, including test strips and monitor batteries."
The following helpful suggestions can help with emergency diabetes care in any area, whether in a hurricane region, tornado alley, earthquake zone or elsewhere, and may also apply to other medical condition:
- Ensure that medications and supplies are stored in a defined location and can be easily gathered for quick evacuate at home or work
- Keep cool packs or ice in the freezer that can be easily reached to keep insulin cool while on the go.
- Compile an easy-to-identify, easy-to-reach kit that includes:
- Extra medical supplies, such as syringes, cotton balls, tissues, alcohol swabs, blood glucose testing strips, blood glucose meter, lancing device and lancets, urine ketone testing strips and any other items relevant to your therapy and blood sugar monitoring
- An empty hard plastic bottle to dispose of syringes and lancets
- Small cooler to store your insulin while away from refrigeration
- Pen and small notebook to record blood sugars
- Extra pair of glasses (if needed)
- Extra copies of prescriptions and health insurance cards
- Emergency medical information and emergency contact list, including caregiver's and physicians' names and phone numbers. Parents should keep a copy of the physician's orders for their child's care on file with the school, as well as in the disaster kit
- Up-to-date glucagon emergency kit (if using insulin) and fast-acting carbohydrate (such as glucose tablets or orange juice)
- Non-perishable items such as granola bars, unsweetened cereal, hard candies, peanut butter and crackers, and water
- Typical emergency items such as a First Aid kit, flashlight, whistle, matches and candles, radio with batteries, and work gloves
- Keep the kit up-to-date and ensure there are enough supplies to least a week
- Monitor blood sugar frequently and record numbers
- Increase food intake during periods of excessive physical exertion (such as lifting heavy objects or walking longer-than-usual distances) by eating appropriate snacks between meals
- Wear shoes at all times and examine feet often, as people with diabetes are more vulnerable to developing infections. If you have a foot wound, seek medical attention immediately
- If relocated or affected by a disaster, call doctors as soon as possible to touch base and maintain the continuity of your medical care
- Parents of a child with diabetes should clearly identify which school staff members will assist the child in the event of an emergency
- People who are displaced or need to evacuate should immediately identify themselves as a person with diabetes and report any related conditions so authorities can provide for proper medical care
"No one can anticipate the effect of a natural disaster, but with proper preparation and care, people with diabetes can survive and manage their disease with limited interruption while dealing with the aftermath of a disaster," said Dr. Sherry Martin, medical advisor, Eli Lilly and Company. "Taking the time to prepare now may make a huge difference in an emergency."
For more information, visit www.lilly.com.
This article originally appeared in the June 2006 issue of HME Business.