#Diabetes: How to Plan for the Heat and Heat-Related Emergencies
|April 16, 2016||Posted by Tracy Knutsen under Diabetic Resources|
If you have diabetes, you know how important it is to have a care routine. Yet unpredictable summer weather – with its high temperatures and frequent storms – can wreak havoc on that routine and make it difficult to manage diabetes. In fact, studies have shown that during a heat wave, emergency room use by people with diabetes increases. And while most people with diabetes are aware that extreme heat poses a danger, they may not always know when to take precautions.
First, understand that diabetes make it harder for your body to handle the heat and humidity. You may need to make changes in your medication and what you eat and drink when temperatures rise. During emergencies and natural disasters such as hurricanes or tornadoes, you may have other needs related to diabetes. Your priority is to identify yourself as a person with diabetes so you can get appropriate care.
The heat of summer (over 80 degrees F/27 degrees C) and the high humidity (40% or more) that comes with it can affect medication, testing supplies and your health. Extreme heat is especially dangerous to folks over 65, children under 4 years old, those with mental illnesses, and people with chronic diseases such as diabetes.
So, what should you do when it get hot?
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, to avoid dehydration. Tip: Don’t wait until you get thirsty to drink something as that is a sign you’re already dehydrated. As always, try to avoid sugary drinks – limit alcohol and caffeine. If your fluid intake has been limited by your doctor, ask the doctor about how to stay hydrated while it’s so hot outside.
- Know the signs of heat-related illness and how to respond to the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke can cause death or permanent disability of emergency treatment isn’t provided. The signs of heat exhaustion are:
- Fainting or near-fainting
- Sweating to excess
- Muscle cramping
- Cold, clammy skin
- Rapid heartbeat
- Wear sunscreen! Don’t forget to cover your scalp with sunscreen or a hat, and use a lipbalm with sunscreen in it.Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing to stay cooler.
- Check medication packages to learn when and how high heat could affect them. Protect them from the heat while you’re out.
- If you travel with insulin, don’t store it in direct sunlight or keep it in a hot car. Keep it in a cooler, but not directly on ice or a frozen gel pack.
- Check your glucose meter and test strips for info on use during times of high heat and humidity. Don’t leave them in a hot car, by the pool or on the beach. Exposure to heat can make these inaccurate and unreliable later.
- Heat can damage insulin pumps and other equipment. Don’t leave disconnected pumps and supplies in direct sun or in the hot car.
- When you exercise, do so in an air conditioned area or go out early in the morning/late in the day.
- When it’s hot, check your blood glucose levels frequently and always prior to driving.
Planning for Emergencies
Prepare an emergency supply of food and water. The CDC recommends that you include an adequate supply of medicine and medical supplies in your emergency kit, enough for at least three days and possibly more, depending on your needs. Plan how you’ll handle medicine that normally requires refrigeration, such as insulin. Check expiration dates on all medicine and supplies often so that you can change medicine and medical supplies in your emergency kit, to ensure they stay up to date. Keep copies of prescriptions and other important medical information, including your health care provider’s phone number, in your emergency kit. Keep a list of the types and model numbers of medical devices you use, such as an insulin pump, in the emergency kit.
- 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.
- If you need regular medical treatments, such as dialysis, talk to your service provider about their emergency plans.
- Always wear identification that says you have diabetes.
- Ask your doctor during a regular visit what to do in an emergency if you don’t have your insulin or other medication and can’t get more.
What if there is an emergency?
People with diabetes face extra challenges during emergencies and natural disasters. If you have to evacuate to get away from a threat, let others know (like first responders and shelter personnel) you have diabetes and/or any other chronic health problems like heart or kidney disease. Two important things to remember during an emergency:
- Keep some sugar with you at all times. You may not be able to check your blood sugar levels, but you likely know the warning signs of low blood sugar like sweating, light-headedness, shakiness, and confusion. Carry glucose tablets, hard candies, sugar packets or something similar with you.
- Pay special attention to your feet. Stay out of contaminated water, wear sturdy shoes, keep your feet dry and examine them for signs of injury or infection. Get medical treatment quickly if needed.
Plan ahead for diabetes care during the heat of summertime, frequent storms and other emergencies. Keep your routine and prepare your medicines and equipment for challenging conditions.