Resize Text RSS Feed Icon High Contrast Icon Print button

Top 4 tips for managing diabetes in an emergency

  1. Make a written plan that lists all current medications, important contacts and medical history.
  2. Prepare a diabetes emergency kit with 14 days’ worth of non-perishable food, water and medication.
  3. Keep a copy of the plan and the emergency kit near an exit and within easy reach in your home.
  4. Update both the plan and the kit at the start of every season so that information is current and food and medical supplies are within their use-by date.

You can also visit the NDSS Diabetes and Emergencies web page Link to External Site to download resources about managing diabetes in emergencies.  The NDSS is an initiative of the Australian Government administered by Diabetes Australia.

Preparing for Emergencies

  • Natural disasters or emergency situations can have a big impact on blood glucose levels. People with diabetes need to plan how they will keep managing their condition during an emergency.
  • Blood glucose levels can change quickly during an emergency because:
  • it may be more difficult to get medication and medical treatment
  • it may be more difficult to get appropriate food
  • you may experience stress and/or levels of physical activity may change during an emergency
  • you may be forced to stay in one place and be less physically active.
  • Emergency situations can last days or weeks after the event, so it is important to be prepared to self-manage your diabetes for at least 14 days. In addition to your emergency plan, prepare a diabetes emergency kit with food, water and medical supplies to last at least 14 days.
  • The My Diabetes Emergency Plan Link to External Site has been developed to help people with diabetes plan for a natural disaster or emergency. It is a document for recording important information such as:
  • personal details
  • useful contact details (general practitioner, pharmacist, local hospital, credentialled diabetes educator, endocrinologist and other members of the diabetes care team)
  • personal contacts in case of emergency
  • medications and their schedule
  • diet and nutrition requirements
  • allergies and symptoms.
  • Being prepared and self-managing diabetes during an emergency helps others because medical staff can concentrate on those that need immediate medical attention.

During Emergencies

  • Keep your diabetes emergency kit with you at all times. It will help you manage your diabetes in an emergency situation.
  • If you use insulin to manage your diabetes, then test your blood glucose levels as you would normally to check if insulin is needed – even if you have not eaten.
  • You may need to take different amounts of insulin and other medication during an emergency because of higher levels of stress and changed levels of physical activity. Any alteration to medication should be done in consultation with a healthcare professional.
  • Once opened, insulin vials can be kept at room temperature (15–25 degrees C) for up to 28 days. Insulin must not be left in direct sunlight.
  • In an emergency you may have to use insulin that has been stored above 30 degrees, but this should be discarded as soon as properly stored insulin becomes available again.
  • Try to keep insulin as cool as possible, but make sure it does not become frozen if you are using ice. Do not use frozen insulin.
  • Try to keep your feet dry. Wear shoes at all times and check your feet often for cuts, bruises, blisters or infected toenails.
  • Wear protective clothing and check for insect bites and scratches that may not be healing.

After an Emergency

  • Medication may not be available in the time after an emergency.
  • It may not be possible to keep insulin refrigerated in the time after an emergency. Insulin can be kept at room temperature (15–25 degrees) for up to 28 days.
  • You may have to wait longer for medical attention as people with acute injuries are treated first.
  • Visit your doctor or credentialed diabetes educator for a check-up as soon as possible after an emergency and alert them to any cuts or scratches that may not be healing, particularly on your feet.
  • Continue to closely monitor blood glucose levels.