Living with diabetes blog

Dealing with diabetes emergencies

By Nancy Klobassa Davidson, R.N. and Peggy Moreland, R.N. August 28, 2009

Ever forget your insulin? Or did your snacks get all eaten and then you had a severe low? A couple of summers ago we had a family vacation in Florida. Our son, who lived in South Carolina and has type 1 diabetes, mentioned that he forgot his insulin and these were his exact words: "Oh well, I guess I just won't eat."

Of course, I was horrified and told him that that wasn't an option. We went to the nearest pharmacy that was able to call and get his prescription. This was a good learning experience for him. No matter how well you may be prepared, diabetes emergencies happen. Here are a few tips that our family has learned along the way:

  • Have a backup plan in case you forget to bring your insulin or something happens to your insulin and you're not able to use it. In the United States, you can go to a pharmacy and they can call your doctor for a new prescription. U.S. insulin strengths are U-100 strength, while in foreign countries insulin may come in U-40 or U-80 strength. Check with a local healthcare provider for adjusted dose. If you need to use a different insulin, you'll need to buy new syringes to match the new insulin to avoid a mistake in your dose.
  • Snacks — When out with family or friends, snacks tend to disappear. To avoid a hypoglycemic emergency, it's a good idea to carry sugar tablets. My son has found that if he carries lifesavers or other candy, those tend to be eaten (by him). He finds it less tempting to snack on sugar tablets.
  • Always wear a diabetes medical ID bracelet or necklace — Information on the ID is invaluable to emergency medical personnel. If you are having a low and not able to communicate well, you can point to your ID. There are many attractive styles available.
  • Carry a bag/backpack with your diabetes supplies and keep it close to the door when leaving. My son calls his backpack his "man purse." Gotta have a sense of humor!
  • Did you get to work and realized that you forgot your insulin? — Ask your employer whether you can store an extra insulin vial/pen in a refrigerator.

Do you have a close call story? A frightening low? A time where you were caught unprepared? Please share your experiences and what you have learned.


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Aug. 28, 2009