Diabetes in emergencies

Being prepared for an emergency or natural disaster is advisable for everyone especially if you have a chronic condition like diabetes.  

Preparing an emergency plan is a great way to help you avoid potentially life threatening situations.  

In an emergency situation your body can process glucose differently due to stress, limited access to food or a change in activity levels. It is crucial that people with diabetes pay close attention to their health during emergency situations. Our checklist can help you manage your health during stressful times. 

1. Monitor your health

For people with diabetes, physical and emotional stress can take a toll on health and well-being. BGLs may go up or down when a person is under stress. It is important you take notice of how you are feeling, take regular rest breaks, increase your monitoring and contact your GP or health professional if you have concerns. You may get very busy (pre-occupied) and need to set reminders to look after yourself. 

2. Eat well

Access to fresh fruit and vegetables may be difficult when road transport is disrupted.. Look for specials and cheaper varieties. As an alternative eat frozen or canned fruit and vegetables. 

3. Eat safe

Make sure you know where your food is coming from. If you lose a regular supply of electricity  you may have to throw away food that wasn’t properly refrigerated to avoid any food-borne illnesses. 

4. Drink safe

Make sure your water source is safe. If possible, stock up on bottled water. Alternatively, have a filter system available to filter your drinking water.  If you’re concerned, call your local council. 

5. Clean safe

When cleaning up after a natural disaster make sure you’re dressed the part; a long-sleeve shirt, gumboots and thick gloves. A mask may be needed after a bush fire. 

6. Look after your feet

Feet hygiene is extremely important for people with diabetes. Make sure you wear protective foot wear at all times – a simple cut can quickly develop into something more serious like an ulcer. Try to keep your feet dry, wash them properly after any work and inspect them frequently. Contact your doctor if you have concerns. 

7. Bugs and repellent

Natural disasters often mean more mosquitoes and other insects. Cover up with repellent, protective clothing and check for bites and scratches that may not be healing. Contact your GP if you have concerns. 

8. Check diabetes supplies

Power loss can affect insulin. In hotter climates, keep insulin in a cooler bag if the power is out. You may need to replace your insulin if it is damaged or has been accidentally frozen. Put your blood glucose monitor and strips into a zip lock bag to protect them. If they have been damaged or exposed to moisture or heat, you may need to replace them. 

9. Who to call

In a medical emergency situation, contact 000. If you need urgent access to medication or supplies, or have any medical concerns, call Queensland Health on 1343 2584 (13 HEALTH). 

For information or support, call Diabetes Queensland on 1800 177 055. If your usual NDSS access point pharmacy is affected by a natural-disaster, call 1300 136 588 to register for NDSS consumables by mail order. 

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