Natural Disaster Emergency Checklist for Diabetics
Diabetes is a disease that is relatively easy to manage with food and exercise. Most diabetics who have been living with the disease for a long time know what they can and cannot have to avoid spikes in their glucose levels. But, in avoiding certain foods, do diabetics get the proper nutrition their bodies need to function well? Cutting out foods that are high in natural and processed sugars is all well and good, but there needs to be a balance to replace whatever nutrients go missing when eliminating certain foods from one’s diet. Getting the right nutrition becomes especially difficult when a natural disaster hits.
Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes
There are two main types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2, and both are different in the ways they affect the body and how they are treated. In type 1 diabetes, the body cannot create insulin because the immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas that are responsible for that task. This form of diabetes is most commonly found in children and young adults. Treatment for this type involves taking daily insulin shots as well as maintaining a strict diet and closely monitoring blood glucose levels.
Type 2 diabetes is usually diagnosed in adults of middle age, but it can also appear in children and is often brought on by obesity. While the pancreas in type 2 diabetes can sometimes make insulin, it may not make enough, or the body will not efficiently use what is made. A third form of diabetes is gestational diabetes, but it is only found in pregnant women, usually developing during pregnancy and disappearing afterwards.
Most diabetics know they need to stay on top of their insulin injections as well as their diet to be sure they don’t fall ill. But what happens in the event of a natural disaster? What things can be done to ensure diabetics have the resources they need both during and after the event?
There is a good deal of information available about natural disasters. People should be ready for situations such as loss of electricity, limited availability of clean water for drinking and bathing, and difficulties obtaining food. These things are doubly important for those who must inject insulin daily for their survival. The following is a checklist to help people with diabetes in case of a natural disaster:
- Generator: During or after a disaster, if the electricity goes out, a generator is incredibly important. For those who use injectable vial insulin that needs to be kept in a controlled temperature, it could be a real lifesaver. As an alternative, diabetics could also use a pen form of insulin if a generator is not available.
- Waterproof kits: A proper emergency kit should contain all medications as well as a list of pharmacies, current medications being taken, any drug interactions, and any complications from prior surgeries or related to diabetes. If, for any reason, the patient falls unconscious, this would be a very helpful tool. The kit should also include a 30-day supply of glucose tablets, a blood glucose testing meter, a disposal container, cooling gel packs, batteries, and an extra pump, if one is used.
- Stock supplies in frequently visited places: A waterproof kit should be placed in the home’s most popular locations, and the items should be checked periodically to see if they have expired. Pack a supply of nonperishable, dehydrated food that can provide at least 2–4 weeks of meals. The food should also be able to be easily stored without cold or heat, and can be eaten without cooking, too.
- Clothing choices: Keep sturdy shoes, socks, blankets, and warm clothing in the emergency pack. To minimize the risk of cuts and abrasions, long sleeves and long, sturdy pants are recommended. The feet should be checked daily to make sure blisters do not form and the skin is not rubbed raw.
- First aid supplies: Certain items are integral to any diabetic disaster kit, first aid being near the top of the list. It helps reduce the risk of infections, among other things. Important first aid supplies include antibacterial ointment, cleansing wipes and gels, roller bandages, gauze pads, sterile pads, and antiseptic wipes for cleaning cuts and wounds. One can also include non-latex gloves, scissors, tweezers, elastic bandages, medical tape, cold packs, adhesive bandages, and CPR breathing barriers.
- Personal hygiene products: Deodorant, soap, good toothpaste, and a toothbrush should always be included, as diabetes can be exacerbated by poor dental hygiene. Women should also include sanitary items such as tampons or pads. Keep several large trash bags in the kit as well; these can be used to dispose of medicinal items, hygiene products, and food waste.
Natural disasters put significant stress on the body, and for diabetic patients, glucose levels may spike because of this, leading to secondary symptoms such as high blood pressure and depression. However, by doing as much as possible to prepare, diabetics can help themselves stay safe by keeping their stress level to a minimum. But stress levels are not elevated by worry alone; boredom can cause them to rise, too. So, when waiting out the blizzard, hurricane, or other storm, do not forget always to include some form of entertainment while you pack your emergency kit and keep them handy.