I have been loving this beautiful spring weather lately, and am looking forward to family bike rides and picnics in the coming months. But living in New Jersey, I know that the weather can often take a turn for the worse; I remember Hurricane Sandy all too well. Depending on where you live in the country, you may face tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, blizzards or wildfires, among other natural disasters. After hearing from Scott Estrin and Dr. P., who weathered a hurricane and a tornado respectively, I thought it might be helpful to compile some severe weather preparedness tips for those living with diabetes.
BEFORE: Preparation is key, according to Scott. “My takeaway is don’t be prepared for what you think might happen; be prepared for what you don’t think might happen…”
- During a regular office visit, ask your doctor for recommendations on what to do during an emergency if you do not have access to your or a loved one’s medication, suggests the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- The American Diabetes Association advises keeping at least three days’ worth of diabetes supplies on hand to create a grab-and-go diabetes emergency toolkit, which Scott found helpful: “I use a mail-order pharmacy and refill prescriptions in large quantities when they come due for a refill, so I’m always prepared. I also have spare meters and my previous insulin pump, which I kept with me as a backup just in case. I also had two or three jars of glucose tablets around the house.”
- Consider getting an insulin cooling case, in case the power (and refrigeration) goes out.
- Stock up on household supplies, such as:
- Canned goods
- Fill up the gas tank in your car(s), in case you need to evacuate.
- If you must prepare your house and yard for a potential storm, or run multiple errands, it might be a good idea to check your blood sugar level before extended physical activity. “I have a lot of lawn furniture outside and a grill on a deck with stairs, so it was a little bit difficult to maneuver,” said Scott. “When I was bringing everything in from outside, it led to low blood sugar. I didn’t think beforehand that I should either eat something first or lower my basal rate, so I got caught after the fact.”
AFTER: Make diabetes management a priority. “I’m not really that good at putting myself first,” said Dr. P. “After the tornado hit, my first thoughts were to help other people in that moment, but it was pivotal for me to learn that as a diabetic, I have to put myself first to make sure I’m okay.”
- Once the storm has passed, check your blood sugar. The stressful situation may affect your blood sugar. “I couldn’t believe I had just told [my mother] a tornado has destroyed my home, and she was making me promise to check my glucose when we hung up the phone,” said Dr. P. “But I checked it, and sure enough I was having a low.”
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, to avoid dehydration, recommends the CDC.
- Watch out for your feet, says the CDC. Wear shoes, steer clear of contaminated water and watch for signs of infection or injury.
- Wear medical identification to allow emergency personnel to better identify and address your medical needs.
See more tips for diabetes care during natural disasters and emergencies on the CDC and American Diabetes Association websites and JDRF blog. While I hope you never have to face a crisis situation, it makes sense to be prepared for what may come your way. How have you managed diabetes care during severe weather? Feel free to share your diabetes emergency preparedness tips in the comment section below. All the best, Laura K.