Prepare for Diabetes Care in Heat and Emergencies
If you have diabetes, you need to take extra care in summer, when heat waves, strong storms, and hurricanes can strike. It is important to make a plan and be prepared.
If you have diabetes, you know how important it is to have a care routine. Yet summer weather, with its high temperatures and extreme storms, can cause problems with your routine. Managing your diabetes becomes more difficult.
Why is this so?
- Diabetes makes it harder for your body to handle high heat and humidity.
- When temperatures rise, you may need to make changes in your medicine and what you eat and drink.
- During emergencies and natural disasters such as hurricanes or tornadoes, you may have other needs related to diabetes.
Let others know that you have diabetes so you can get appropriate care. If you are a family member, caregiver, or health care provider for someone with diabetes, please share the information below with them.
Be Prepared for High Heat.
Hot weather – temperatures of 80°F –or above, especially with high humidity – can affect medicine, testing supplies and your health. The heat index measures how hot it really feels by combining temperature and humidity readings. A heat index starting at 80°F with 40% humidity is cause for caution. Extreme heat is especially dangerous to:
- people age 65 and older
- children younger than 4
- people with mental illnesses
- people with chronic diseases such as diabetes.
Be sure you know the signs of heat-related illness and how to respond to symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability if you do not get emergency treatment.
Ways to beat the heat with liquids:
Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, to avoid dehydration. When you are dehydrated, your body does not have enough fluid to work properly.
- Do not wait until you get thirsty. Being thirsty is a sign you are already dehydrated.
- Avoid sugar-sweetened drinks such as sweet tea and sodas.
- If your doctor has limited how much liquid you can drink, ask what to do during times of high heat to stay hydrated.
Ways to protect your skin:
- Wear sunscreen.
- Use a lip balm with sunscreen.
- Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, and light-colored clothing.
Your medicines and supplies need protection, too:
- Heat can damage insulin pumps and other equipment. Do not leave the disconnected pump or supplies in the direct sun or in a hot car.
- If you are traveling with insulin, do not store it in direct sunlight or in a hot car. Keep it in a cooler, but do not place it directly on ice or on a gel pack.
- Check glucose meter and test strip packages for information on use during times of high heat and humidity. Do not leave them in a hot car, by a pool, or on the beach.
Check medicine package inserts to learn when high temperatures can affect them.
- Take medicines with you if you will need to take them while you are away from home.
- Be sure to protect them from the heat.
Use your cool:
- Get physical activity in air-conditioned areas, or exercise outside early or late in the day, during cooler temperatures.
- Use your air conditioner or go to air-conditioned buildings in your community to stay cool.
What to Do During Emergencies
People with diabetes face extra challenges during emergencies and natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornadoes.
If you are evacuating – that is, leaving your home to get away from a threat – or staying in an emergency shelter, let others know that you have diabetes so that you can take care of your health. Make sure you also let others know if you have other health problems, such as:
- chronic kidney disease
- heart disease.
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Safe drinking water may be hard to find in emergencies, but if you do not take in enough water, you could develop serious medical problems. Heat, stress, high blood sugar, and some diabetes medicines such as metformin can cause you to lose fluid, which increases the chances you will become dehydrated.
- Keep something containing sugar with you at all times, in case you develop dangerously low blood sugar, also called hypoglycemia. You may not be able to check blood sugar levels, so know the warning signs of low blood sugar.
Pay special attention to your feet:
- Stay out of contaminated water.
- Wear shoes.
- Examine feet carefully for any sign of infection or injury
- Get medical treatment quickly for any injuries.
Plan Now for Emergencies.
Now – before an emergency strikes – make an emergency plan for you and your family. To learn more about how to do this, visit Ready.gov.
Always wear identification that says you have diabetes.
- If you take insulin, ask your doctor during a regular visit what to do in an emergency if you do not have your insulin and cannot get more.
- If you take other medicines for diabetes, ask your doctor what to do during an emergency if you do not have your medicine.
Include an adequate supply of medicine and medical supplies in your emergency kit.
- Stock enough for at least three days and possibly more, depending on your needs.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist about storing prescription medicines such as heart and high blood pressure medicine and insulin.
- Plan how you will handle medicine that normally requires refrigeration, such as insulin.
- Make sure you change medicine and medical supplies in your emergency kit regularly, to ensure they stay up to date.
- Check expiration dates on all medicine and supplies often.
- Keep copies of prescriptions and other important medical information, including the phone number for your doctor, in your emergency kit.
- Keep a list of the type and model number of medical devices you use, such as an insulin pump, in the emergency kit.
- If you need regular medical treatments, such as dialysis, talk to your doctor about their emergency plans.
Plan for Your Family.
- Prepare an emergency supply of food and water.
- If you have a child with diabetes who is in school or daycare, learn the school’s emergency plan. Work with them to ensure your child will have needed diabetes supplies in an emergency.
You can find more information at the following websites:
- Diabetes Care During Natural Disasters, Emergencies, and Hazards
- Natural Disasters and Severe Weather
- CDC: Emergency Preparedness and You
- Diabetes Disaster Preparedness: Patient Information
- American Diabetes Association: Tips for Emergency Preparedness
- National Weather Service: Heat: A Major Killer
- FDA: Insulin Storage and Switching Between Products in an Emergency
Source: This article was adapted from information found on CDC’s website Prepare for diabetes care in heat and emergencies.
For more information:
Go to the Diabetes health topic.