Emergency Preparedness for Diabetics

(Obligatory – but important – caveat:  I am not a doctor and the following is not medical advice.  Please check with your own physician and follow his recommendations and instructions.)

No matter who you are, and what illness you may suffer from, it’s important to be prepared for any emergency.  However, there are special considerations for those who suffer from diabetes.  Whether you have type 1 (formerly known as juvenile-onset or insulin-dependent) or type 2 (previously known as adult-onset), there are certain things you must do to care for yourself to maintain your ability to process food.

Diabetics need to very careful in their prepping

The first thing you need to do is to make an emergency plan.  Think of the supplies you need, the foods you will need to eat, and the medications you must take.  See if you can’t get your doctor to prescribe some extra supplies and medications to keep on hand for emergencies, and be sure to rotate your stock and keep it cool!  Another alternative is to take a slightly lower dose of your medication, saving the extra for later.  Do, however, pay close attention to expiration dates, and especially with injectable insulin.  Pills tend to retain their potency longer, but still need to be watched.

Next, you need to decide what you can do to maximize the shelf life and the lifespan of your foods, even if they haven’t expired.  If you take injectable insulin, you need to be particularly careful in weather extremes, as insulin is highly perishable in the heat.  When you don’t have refrigeration, a nice cool well (for storing and cooling your insulin supply) can literally be a lifesaver.  In fact, an underground room or small storage spot will maintain a cool, steady temperature that can extend the effectiveness of your insulin.  Consider how to go about getting one of these!  If you take oral medication, you won’t be in as much trouble in very cold or very hot weather, but still, if you don’t know where the next supply is coming from, this is bound to be a consideration.

Of course, you will be better off if the emergency is short-lived, and that’s what we all are hoping for, but we don’t have control of that.  So, consider: how are you going to make your medications last longer if you need for them to?  My first suggestion is to reduce your dietary carbohydrates drastically.  Back before the discovery of insulin and its role in diabetes, Type 1 diabetics ate practically nothing, and certainly no carbohydrates, to keep their blood sugars from going extremely high.  Now, this is very important: if you take injectable insulin and decide to  try to extend your supply by reducing your usage, you will need to discuss with your doctor how to reduce your insulin injections so as not to cause the serious and life-threatening complications of low blood sugar.  I suggest you give this method a try for a few days, while your doctor is available for consultation, to make sure you understand how to do it without complication.

If you are Type 2, you should be able to go for quite a long time without medication just by removing the carbohydrate foods from your diet.  This is way easier than it sounds.   After a few days, you will soon discover you don’t miss your breads and pastas nearly as much as you thought you would!

Don’t forget to make sure you have extra batteries for your blood glucose testing meter.  You probably want to keep the batteries rotated on a regular schedule, and don’t forget to make a note of when you last changed the batteries.  Be sure to note on the package of batteries the date you purchased them.

No matter which type of diabetes you have, it’s essential to have on hand a source of glucose that acts quickly in case your blood sugar drops too low.  Plenty of these are available in the stores, and these GlucoLift tablets are inexpensive and available  on Amazon.  It’s best to keep glucose sources on hand that aren’t tempting to others (like candy), so you won’t find you need glucose and someone in your family ate it!

Speaking of keeping these on hand and away from others: be sure to label all your diabetes supplies carefully so that no one can misunderstand who they belong to.   Not that anyone’s going to be coveting your lancet or your hypodermics, and there is absolutely zero entertainment value in playing with your test strips, but hey, just don’t leave an invitation out for Murphy…he’ll show up before you know it.

Be sure you have a way to contact emergency providers, but remember:  it’s unlikely they’ll be available by cell phone in a really bad disaster.  KNOW that you can’t really count on them.  As always:  hope for the best, but be sure to prepare for the worst.

You do have a medical ID bracelet or necklace, right?  Remember, you may not always be in a condition to tell people what your problems are, so solve this problem now and make sure you have a medical ID  on your body at all times!  You can get separated from your purse, so don’t count on a card in your wallet – find a better way, like a bracelet or necklace.

No matter where you live, you never know when something could happen to disrupt your life. If it does, you want to be prepared to care for your diabetes needs, so follow the above tips and make sure you keep everything updated.

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