You or a loved one has diabetes. Are you prepared for an emergency? Handling emergencies when you have a chronic health condition can be challenging, so it’s more important than ever to be prepared. What follows is advice from experience, not formal medical advice: it’s always best to talk with a doctor about your health concerns and preparations for diabetes emergencies as well.
Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes
What if you don’t have diabetes, but you’re concerned about getting this disease? While type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune attack on the pancreas and type 2 is caused by insulin resistance, both lead to high blood sugar and both can develop in adults or children. Frequent urination and excessive thirst are symptoms of diabetes, but you can have other symptoms too. Blurry vision, fatigue, wounds or chronic infections, bladder infections, and flu-like feelings can all be symptoms of type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
If diabetes runs in your family and you’re concerned about being prepared, you can ask your doctor to test you during a checkup and you can also purchase a blood glucose meter and test occasionally. The best times to test are in the morning before eating or after a high-sugar meal – an hour after eating a banana and cereal for breakfast is ideal.
Keep Healthy Snacks and Emergency Food On Hand
If you or a family member does have diabetes, it’s important to plan your food for everyday emergencies as well as large disasters. Keep healthy, low carbohydrate snacks on hand, whether it’s for a sick day, a Go Bag, or a larger emergency kit. This can be a challenge, since many canned goods are full of carbohydrates, and these carbohydrates turn into sugar in your body. I keep low sugar applesauce, baked beans, and canned vegetables in our large household emergency kit. For those who control their diabetes with insulin or medication and who may experience low blood sugar, it’s also essential to have juice, candies, granola bars, or other fast-acting carbohydrates in an emergency kit.
Keeping It Cool
Those who use insulin need it to control their blood sugars, and those with type 1 diabetes cannot survive without it. It’s important to keep a stash of insulin in a Go Bag at work and at home. Be prepared to keep the insulin at the correct temperature. If you experience an emergency in the cooler months, place insulin in an interior pocket close to your skin to prevent it from freezing. A Frio emergency cooling pack is not only helpful when you’re camping, but it could save your insulin if you need to make sure it’s cold on a hot summer’s day. Frio packs can be replenished with water, so even if fridges fail your insulin will stay cool.
Stock Up On Medication and Other Supplies
If there is an emergency and you need to renew your medication or evacuate, you may be out of luck. What to do? Stock up.
If you have insurance, it won’t generally take kindly to you stocking up on extra supplies. However, if you can buy just a little bit extra on your own dollar, then you’ll be ahead of the supply game from now on. Stash this extra in a bag for emergencies and keep some at work. Remember that if you’re storing emergency supplies outdoors, it’s better to keep your medications in a climate-controlled environment. I keep some in my bag for emergencies. Keep an eye on the dates on your supplies as well, and keep them in rotation so they don’t expire.
Plan for Equipment Breakdown
If you’re on an insulin pump or use an insulin pen, make sure that you have an emergency back up plan in case your equipment stops working. In my case, my plan it to head back to single use needles, so I carry a number of these in my purse, along with some extra insulin. I also carry an extra glucose meter, because you never know when your equipment could malfunction.
Having diabetes involves a lot of logistics, and you have to think about food, exercise, and medication much more than the general population. When you’re planning, you need to do a bit more due diligence as well, to make sure that you will stay healthy and have lower stress levels during an emergency.
Do you have any tips you could share in the comments about being prepared when you have diabetes?