I mentioned in my most recent blog “2015 Year in Review” (Link: https://julietalksdiabetes.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/2015-year-in-review/) about the brutally cold winter we had last year at this time. I was probed (and requested by my dear friend Arty) to dig a little deeper into that particular subject and how weather/climate affects diabetes. [By the way, you can read more about Arthur and his organizations here (and I hope you do)] : https://www.facebook.com/OurView4life and http://www.buildjakesplace.org/
I can remember a few instances around 10 years ago where I was not able to test my blood sugar because my meter was too cold. I would receive an error message, but the bigger error was my error of leaving my meter in the car instead of taking it with me in my purse or bag, etc. Unfortunately, not testing appropriately means incorrectly dosing insulin when you do not have the most accurate number to work with. Diabetics have come to “appreciate” the art of guessing the appropriate carbohydrates and insulin dosage that works best for us, but it’s still always better when the numbers are there in plain sight. While rare, I’ve also received error messages when it’s been too warm outside as well and my supplies get too warm. I no longer have the meters that I received these error messages on, but I also have my meter with me at all times in more recent years. And since the winters around here can be bitterly cold, odds are you will find me (and my meter) inside!
I also recall a time that I drank a juicebox due to a low blood sugar that had been sitting in a car on a hot Virginia day in the summer of 2005 while traveling to visit friends. It was more than 85 degrees Fahrenheit at the time. The next morning, I ended up in a northern Virginia hospital from a bacterial infection that caused me to go into DKA (Diabetic Ketoacidosis). Here is some more info on DKA: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/ketoacidosis-dka.html.
Essentially, you need to make sure you take care of yourself no matter what type of weather and no matter what climate you live in. I have come across several different articles and resources to help prepare myself (and YOU!) to prevent any weather-related emergencies when it comes to diabetes, medications, and general health as a whole.
DISCLAIMER: I warn you in advance that this post is long and has lots of internal links to various websites. I am not a medical professional, nor are the people who wrote them.
3 TIPS TO PREPARE FOR WEATHER-RELATED EMERGENCIES:
1: 10 TIPS FOR EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS
Natural disasters, like snowstorms and hurricanes, as well as personal emergencies such as forgetting your diabetes supplies on vacation can leave people living with diabetes feeling unprepared and overwhelmed. We’ve listed a few tips to help prepare for these emergencies, and leave you feeling confident and prepared!
1) Make sure all of your cell phones are charged, and that you keep extra chargers for cell phones and CGMs on hand.
2) Purchase extra supplies. Backup glucose meters, device batteries, and insulin can make a world of difference in an emergency!
3) Keep nonperishable foods in a cool dry place. That means cans of tuna, peanut butter, and nonperishable (shelf) milk to help in case you’re stuck in the house.
4) Write down your emergency contacts. You may know these numbers like the back of your hand, but having a list can help if you’re unable to reach out yourself in times of emergency. Keep a list on hand (in a purse, perhaps) and one in the house.
5) Keep a copy of all of your prescriptions and their doses in case anyone else needs to take over. This will make resupplying much easier, and keep worries at bay.
6) Know where your quick-acting carbohydrates live, and make sure someone else knows too! This will help for extreme lows, if you’re unable to grab the glucose tabs or juice boxes yourself.
7) Do you have electric door openers? These can be great, but also dangerous during a power outage. Disengage them to ensure you have access to your home if the power dies.
8) Do you let the gas tank run low on your car? In emergencies, making sure you have a tank full of gas can be critical. Never let the tank dip below 1/3 full to help make sure you can get away easily.
9) Consider that stress has been known to raise blood sugar. Knowing your levels may rise unexpectedly can help you prepare for this potential high number.
10) Stay on track now to better prepare for unexpected events. Skipping meals, loading up on sugary foods, and derailing your own diet can be hazardous during emergency situations. By maintaining healthy blood sugar levels now, you can be better equipped to handle any situation.
2: MANAGING DIABETES FROM THE CDC (Centers for Disease Control)
During natural disasters, emergencies, and hazards people with diabetes face particular challenges to their health care. If you are an evacuee or are in an emergency situation, it is of prime importance to identify yourself as a person with diabetes and any related conditions, so you can obtain appropriate care. It is also important to prevent dehydration by drinking enough fluids, which can be difficult when drinking water is in short supply. In addition, it is helpful to keep something containing sugar with you at all times, in case you develop hypoglycemia (low blood glucose). To prevent infections, which people with diabetes are more vulnerable to, pay careful attention to the health of your feet, and get medical treatment for any wounds.
The CDC has compiled many natural disaster and emergency resources in English, Spanish, and several other languages. Below are additional links which may be especially useful for people with diabetes. Some of the following documents are available in Portable Document Format (PDF).
- Emergency Preparedness and You
- Ready—Prepare.Plan.Stay Informed.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency
Insulin, Drug, and Equipment Advice
- Insulin Storage and Potency
Switching Between Products in an Emergency
Patients should try to keep their insulin as cool as possible, avoiding direct heat and direct sunlight as well as freezing if placed on ice. Although a physician should supervise when switching insulin products, here are recommendations for emergency situations.
- Blood Glucose Meters and Hurricane Disasters
Heat and humidity can damage blood glucose meters and test strips. If you use a blood glucose meter, check the meter and test strip package insert for information on use during unusual heat and humidity.
- Diabetes Disaster Preparedness
http://www.state.nj.us/health/fhs/documents/diabetes_disaster_guidelines.pdf [PDF–211 KB]
This brochure includes helpful disaster management tips about insulin, pens, and syringes; food safety; foot care; managing hot weather, erratic mealtimes, physical exertion, and sick days.
Winter Weather and Extreme Heat
- Be Prepared: Staying Safe and Healthy in Winter Weather
Winter storms and cold temperatures can be hazardous, but if you plan ahead, you can stay safe and healthy.
- Prepare for Diabetes Care in Heat and Emergencies
- Kidney Community Emergency Preparedness and Response
Provides essential information to help dialysis patients, transplant recipients, and kidney health care professionals before and during emergencies.
- Do You Have High Blood Pressure?
- Hand Hygiene in Emergency Situations
After an emergency, it can be difficult to find running water. However, it is still important to wash your hands to avoid illness or infection, especially when testing your blood glucose or treating a wound.
- Keep Water Safe after a Natural Disaster
Water may not be safe to drink, clean with, or bathe in after a hurricane or flood, which can be a particular problem for people with diabetes, who especially need to drink fluids and keep wounds clean.
- Emergency Wound Care After a Natural Disaster
People often receive wound injuries during and after a natural disaster, and wound care is of particular importance for people with diabetes.
- Foot Care for People with Diabetes
Foot wounds or infections can develop into serious problems for people with diabetes, so foot care is especially important.
General Hurricane Recovery Information
- Hurricane Recovery Information from FirstGov.gov
- Social Security’s Hurricane Information
- Information for Evacuees and Other Affected Persons
Health and violence prevention fact sheets for evacuees, addressing parenting stress, mental health, sexual violence, youth violence, high blood pressure, head lice, hand hygiene, carbon monoxide, and wound care.
3: BE PREPARED TO STAY SAFE AND HEALTHY IN WINTER
Winter storms and cold temperatures can be hazardous, but if you plan ahead, you can stay safe and healthy. Prepare your home and cars. Prepare for power outages and outdoor activity. Check on older adults.
Although winter comes as no surprise, many of us are not ready for its arrival. If you are prepared for the hazards of winter, you will be more likely to stay safe and healthy when temperatures start to fall.
Take these steps for your home
Many people prefer to remain indoors in the winter, but staying inside is no guarantee of safety. Take these steps to keep your home safe and warm during the winter months.
- Winterize your home.
- Install weather stripping, insulation, and storm windows.
- Insulate water lines that run along exterior walls.
- Clean out gutters and repair roof leaks.
- Check your heating systems.
- Have your heating system serviced professionally to make sure that it is clean, working properly and ventilated to the outside.
- Inspect and clean fireplaces and chimneys.
- Install a smoke detector. Test batteries monthly.
- Have a safe alternate heating source and alternate fuels available.
- Prevent carbon monoxide (CO) emergencies.
- Install a CO detector to alert you of the presence of the deadly, odorless, colorless gas. Check batteries regularly.
- Learn symptoms of CO poisoning: headaches, nausea, and disorientation.
Wear appropriate outdoor clothing: layers of light, warm clothing; mittens; hats; scarves; and waterproof boots.
Don’t forget to prepare your car
Get your car ready for cold weather use before winter arrives.
- Service the radiator and maintain antifreeze level; check tire tread or, if necessary, replace tires with all-weather or snow tires.
- Keep gas tank full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
- Use a wintertime formula in your windshield washer.
- Prepare a winter emergency kit to keep in your car in case you become stranded. Include:
- food and water;
- booster cables, flares, tire pump, and a bag of sand or cat litter (for traction);
- compass and maps;
- flashlight, battery-powered radio, and extra batteries;
- first-aid kit; and
- plastic bags (for sanitation).
When planning travel, be aware of current and forecast weather conditions.
Equip in advance for emergencies
Be prepared for weather-related emergencies, including power outages.
- Stock food that needs no cooking or refrigeration and water stored in clean containers.
- Ensure that your cell phone is fully charged.
- When planning travel, be aware of current and forecast weather conditions.
- Keep an up-to-date emergency kit, including:
- Battery-operated devices, such as a flashlight, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio, and lamps;
- extra batteries;
- first-aid kit and extra medicine;
- baby items; and
- cat litter or sand for icy walkways.
- Protect your family from carbon monoxide.
- Keep grills, camp stoves, and generators out of the house, basement and garage.
- Locate generators at least 20 feet from the house.
- Leave your home immediately if the CO detector sounds, and call 911.
Work slowly when doing outside chores.
Take these precautions outdoors
Many people spend time outdoors in the winter working, traveling, or enjoying winter sports. Outdoor activities can expose you to several safety hazards, but you can take these steps to prepare for them:
- Wear appropriate outdoor clothing: layers of light, warm clothing; mittens; hats; scarves; and waterproof boots.
- Sprinkle cat litter or sand on icy patches.
- Learn safety precautions to follow when outdoors.
- Be aware of the wind chill factor.
- Work slowly when doing outside chores.
- Take a buddy and an emergency kit when you are participating in outdoor recreation.
- Carry a cell phone.
Be prepared to check on family and neighbors who are especially at risk from cold weather hazards.
Do this when you plan to travel
When planning travel, be aware of current and forecast weather conditions.
- Avoid traveling when the weather service has issued advisories.
- If you must travel, inform a friend or relative of your proposed route and expected time of arrival.
- Follow these safety rules if you become stranded in your car.
- Stay with your car unless safety is no more than 100 yards away, but continue to move arms and legs.
- Stay visible by putting bright cloth on the antenna, turning on the inside overhead light (when engine is running), and raising the hood when snow stops falling.
- Run the engine and heater only 10 minutes every hour.
- Keep a downwind window open.
- Make sure the tailpipe is not blocked.
Above all, be prepared to check on family and neighbors who are especially at risk from cold weather hazards: young children, older adults, and the chronically ill. If you have pets, bring them inside. If you cannot bring them inside, provide adequate, warm shelter and unfrozen water to drink.
No one can stop the onset of winter. However, if you follow these suggestions, you will be ready for it when it comes.
While most of these are directed towards diabetes, these are all great things to remember no matter what illness, disease, or medical condition you may have! You never want to find yourself stuck in a bad situation, especially in regards to natural disasters. It really could be life or death. Be Prepared!