Emergency Preparedness and Diabetes: Are you organized?

February 8, 2013By 0 Comments

It may seem to be common sense for anyone living with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, to always make sure you have plenty of supplies to manage your blood sugars. However, sometimes time gets away from us, and emergencies creep up and all of a sudden we open the fridge to find just a half vial of insulin left or one vial of test strips at our disposal until our new prescription can be filled. While some of this may seem to be obvious, you would be surprised.  I often surprise myself  how frequently I say ‘oh crap’… when I’ve realized I’m  in a supply jam. With the impending blizzard upon us this weekend, although it may be too late to do anything about a supply shortage at this very moment, here are some things to keep in mind for times when you need to ration supplies:

  • Always make sure you have at least one month’s supply of insulin and test strips available as a back-up, no matter what. How can you do that? Well, you can try to get a sample of insulin and test strips from your Endo office next time you go in, and keep that as emergency. Also, it’s not a bad idea to have your prescription say that you check your BG 10 times a day (even if you only check 6-8, or that you take 40 units a day of insulin, even if you only take 30), this will allow your supply to last longer.
  •  Keep tabs on expiration dates! Just as they say in the restaurant business, FIFO (first in first out), make sure you are using the insulin and test strips that are oldest first, and stack your new ones in the back.
  • ALWAYS have syringes available, especially if you are on a pump or insulin pen. It is important to keep syringes everywhere; in your meter case, car, and home. This way, if your pump breaks, you run out of infusion sets, or if you insulin pen caps run out, you can, in an emergency (and this is NOT MEDICAL advice, just a trick of the trade that can be used in an EMERGENCY…) you can take a syringe and put it into the tip of the reservoir or pen that contains insulin and extract a few units. This is NOT meant to be done regularly, as this is not really a safe practice, but it is an option if you’re in a jam.
  •  Remember: If you are on an MDI regimen of long acting and short acting insulin, and if you run out of long acting insulin, you can really only use short-acting alone for about 2 hours before you will really need some basal insulin back in your system. So if you are running low on long acting, call your doctor to see if you can maybe lower your dose to make it last you an extra day, and adjust your eating so that you don’t run into unwanted highs.
  • As for pump supplies, try to always have extra, and always keep a vial of Lantus or other long-acting in the fridge, in case your pump breaks. – If you are NOT the one with diabetes, and it is an elderly relative, please try to help make sure they are prepared for an emergency as well.

Many of these tips should be common sense, but it’s important to reiterate them. People have survived on much less for diabetes care products over the last 100 years, so you CAN make it work without panicking.

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