Open Accessibility Menu

Caring for a Loved One with Diabetes in an Emergency

  • Category: Diabetes
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Frederick Health
Caring for a Loved One with Diabetes in an Emergency

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood sugar is too high. Blood sugar is your main source of energy, coming from the foods you eat. When your pancreas can’t produce enough insulin, glucose stays in your blood, causing health problems. Over time, diabetes can cause heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, and eye and foot problems.

November is American Diabetes Month. In 2018, 34.2 million Americans, or 10.5% of the population, had diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes every year. Knowing how to care for someone with diabetes in the case of an emergency can save lives.

Diabetic emergencies can come in many forms. Although signs and symptoms vary, the most common ones include:

  • Hunger
  • Clammy skin
  • Profuse sweating
  • Drowsiness or confusion
  • Weakness or feeling faint
  • Sudden loss of responsiveness

There are important steps to follow when helping someone with a diabetic emergency:

  • If your loved one is having a diabetic emergency, call 911. Tell emergency workers their symptoms, that they are diabetic, and share any medications they take. Also tell them about any complications that may require special care, such as heart or kidney problems.
  • Make sure they are getting enough fluids. During hyperglycemia, or when blood glucose levels rise, the body needs more fluids than usual, as the risk for dehydration is high. Water is best, but other sugar-free drinks also work.
  • Be aware of hypoglycemia, or when blood glucose dips. This can happen with certain medications like insulin or sulfonylureas. Keeping candy, juice, or glucose tablets with you can help if hypoglycemia occurs.
  • If you’re in a situation where there’s no access to food, the amount of medication may need to be adjusted to avoid hypoglycemia. For example, less insulin will be used if no food is available.
  • If medications are not available, the diabetic person may need to eat less, particularly if they use insulin. If they have type 1 diabetes, they should consume as little sugar and starch as possible.
  • People with diabetes are at a higher risk of infections, particularly in the feet. Check feet regularly to ensure no infections have occurred.

Natural disasters, power outages, disease outbreaks, and other emergencies can cause devastating impacts on supplies, services, and healthcare systems. Being prepared with supplies, prescriptions, and important paperwork can help. Packing a diabetes care kit or having a preparedness plan will help in case of these types of emergencies. Supplies should be kept in a waterproof bag or storage container that can be easily moved in the case of evacuation.

Keep important medical information in a sealed plastic bag, including:

  • Copies of prescriptions
  • Current medicine dosages and schedules
  • Basal rates, insulin-to-carbohydrate ratio, insulin sensitivity factor, blood sugar target, and correction factors for insulin pumps
  • Your pharmacy and doctor’s name, address, and phone number
  • The make, model, and serial number of your insulin pump or continuous glucose monitor
  • A copy of your photo ID and insurance card

Pack enough supplies to last 1 to 2 weeks, including:

  • Insulin and syringes
  • Blood sugar meter
  • Extra batteries
  • Lancets and lancing devices
  • Insulin pump supplies, including extra pump sets and insertion devices
  • Glucagon kits
  • Ketone strips
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Glucose tablets
  • An empty plastic bottle to carry syringes, needles, and lancets

Be sure to check the expiration date for supplies every few months. Replace anything close to expiring with new supplies.

Frederick Health provides comprehensive diabetes care through the Diabetes and Nutrition Center. Offering a 10-hour education program, our experienced staff evaluates, educates, and supports those with diabetes. Dietitians will help with meal planning and weight management while specialists help with understanding and controlling the different aspects of diabetes.

For diabetes care and information, visit