Is your diabetes go-bag ready for an emergency?
Hurricanes, blizzards, even an unexpected flat tire can pose a threat to people with diabetes, who need to regulate blood glucose levels at all times.
“Being caught unprepared can be life-threatening for a person with diabetes who can lapse into a coma without the proper medication, so I recommend keeping a toolkit or go-bag ready and with you at all times in case of emergency,” said Maricel Ridella, MD, with the Endocrine Center of Cape Cod in Hyannis, MA.
If you have diabetes, the two most important items you need to have on hand at all times are a glucose monitor and insulin in a cooler, if you are insulin-dependent, she said. Both are essential to keeping diabetes under control.
A ready-made tool Dr. Ridella recommends to her patients is the checklist at MyDiabetesEmergencyPlan.com. There is also a helpful video, “How to Pack Your Diabetes Emergency Kit.”
Your Diabetic Go-Bag
To prepare your own portable emergency kit, Dr. Ridella recommends the American College of Endocrinology’s advice to choose an insulated and waterproof container and fill it with the following:
- A written record of your medications, all your medical conditions, most recent lab results (especially A1C, kidney and liver tests), allergies and prior surgeries. Include your doctors’ names, contact information and pharmacy contact information. List any previous diabetes medications you took and the reason for discontinuation.
- A 30-day supply of all medications taken by mouth or injection for diabetes, as well as for all other medical conditions. Include insulin and a severe hypoglycemia emergency kit –if prescribed (always check expiration date).
- Blood glucose testing supplies and, if possible, two glucose meters with extra batteries.
- A cooler for four re-freezable gel packs, insulin and unused injectable medications to be added when ready to go.
- Empty plastic bottles or sharps containers for syringes, needles and lancets.
- A source of carbohydrate to treat hypoglycemic reactions (for example, glucose tablets, 6- ounce juice boxes, glucose gel, regular soda, sugar, honey or hard candy).
- A two-day supply of nonperishable food, such as peanut butter or cheese crackers, meal replacement shakes or bars, etc.
- At least a three-day supply of bottled water.
- Pen/pencil and notepad to record blood sugar, other test results and any new signs/symptoms suggesting medical problems.
- First aid supplies like bandages, cotton swabs, dressings and topical medications (antibiotic ointments or creams).
A Few More Things
When you assemble your diabetic go-bag, keep in mind that people need to know how to help you in case of emergency. Wear medical alert jewelry and have written information that will be useful if you become incapacitated, Dr. Ridella said.
First responders maintain preparedness for people with diabetes, who account for 30.4 million Americans, or 9.4 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Because the complications from diabetes can increase in an emergency situation, patients who prepare in advance can avoid a healthcare crisis.
MyDiabetesEmergencyPlan.com also offers resources for emergency preparedness officials, first responders, doctors and other healthcare personnel to communicate with community members and patients for whom they care.