Emergency Preparedness

What diabetics should buy to prepare for shelter-in-place orders and self-quarantines.

With the ongoing spread of coronavirus across the globe, the World Health Organization (WHO) has officially declared the novel virus a pandemic. Several states in the U.S. have already taken the initiative in issuing “shelter-in-place” orders for residents. These orders have shut down all non-essential businesses and have mandated that residents stay home as much as possible. 

Even for those areas without shelter-in-place orders, the WHO, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other public health organizations have recommended that “at risk populations” stay indoors as much as they can to reduce their risk of contracting COVID-19. 

So regardless of whether you’re in an area with a shelter-in-place mandate, as a diabetic you are encouraged to stay home. Why? Because you’re considered to be at a greater risk of complications from COVID-19. 

It’s important to note that evidence from the American Diabetes Association (ADA) does not currently indicate that diabetics are more likely to contract COVID-19. But diabetics are more likely to have other chronic illnesses, like kidney and heart disease, which can increase the risk of serious complications from coronavirus. Also, diabetics with higher blood sugar levels and A1Cs may additionally be more likely to develop complications from coronavirus. 

In general, diabetics who come down with the flu or other viruses have a harder time managing their blood glucose. This is a significant reason why public health experts are urging those with chronic illnesses to stay inside: it’s just simply harder to manage your health if you also contract a virus, like COVID-19. 

So for diabetics who either need to stay home due to government mandates or want to self-isolate on their own: what are the necessary supplies they should gather?

Here’s everything you should consider stocking up on to shelter-in-place or quarantine in your own home according to the ADA, CDC, and other leading public health groups and experts. 

Food and Household Goods

The Department of Homeland Security recommends that you stock up on about two weeks worth of food. This ensures that, should you get the virus, you have enough to eat to comfortably weather a 14-day quarantine. The majority of these foods should be shelf-stable, non-perishables. These can be difficult for diabetics to find because a lot of non-perishable food comes in the form of highly-processed, sugar-filled meals and snacks (think cookies and macaroni and cheese). 

So when selecting shelf-stable foods, choose wisely. High-fiber, low-glycemic foods should form the bulk of your stockpile. Think beans, canned or frozen vegetables, oatmeal, peanut butter, and brown rice. These will ensure you’re full and satisfied without spiking your sugar levels too much. Canned goods that are packed in liquids, like tuna or tomatoes, can serve a dual purpose. The extra liquid can be used to cook dried foods like rice and whole grain pasta, adding some additional flavor. 

And speaking of flavor, don’t forget to grab some sauces if you can. Hot sauce, low-sugar barbeque sauces, and other condiments can go a long way in turning bland, canned foods into delicious, nutritious meals. 

Sneaking a heart-healthy bar of dark chocolate into your shopping cart also isn’t a bad idea. Although not strictly an essential stable or very nutritious, allowing an occasional treat can go a long way in boosting your mental health when stuck inside. You might even consider stocking up on candy, juices, or other sugary substances to use to treat lows during a shelter-in-place order or self-quarantine. 

But, as always—even in the case of a pandemic—ensure that you’re sticking to the dietary recommendations of your doctor or nutritionist. 

Some other household items and goods to think about stocking up on:

  • Soap: One of the best ways to protect yourself against coronavirus is by washing your hands frequently, so time to stock up on a bottle or two of soap. Even if you’re staying indoors, it’s important to wash your hands after collecting mail or opening packages. The CDC recommends that you wash your hands using running water (hot or cold) and by lathering with soap for 20 seconds. Make sure to get in between your fingers and under your nails. Need a 20 second timer? Try singing “Happy Birthday” twice or the chorus to “Raspberry Beret”. 
  • Hand sanitizer: Handwashing is the best way to protect yourself against COVID-19. But if soap isn’t available to you, hand sanitizer is a good alternative option to keep your hands clean. With more well-known brands selling out, you might only find lesser-known options on your supermarket shelves. In this case, just be sure to check the label. Ensure that the hand sanitizer includes at least 60% alcohol. There is currently a lot of buzz online about DIYing hand sanitizer—but beware. No major health organization has endorsed an at-home recipe yet and many of these recipes use alcohols like vodka and gin. These consumable alcohols don’t have a high enough ABV to be effective in disinfecting your hands.
  • Personal hygiene items: When it comes to personal hygiene, toilet paper seems to be all anybody can think about—just ask the empty grocery store shelves. But there are plenty of other hygiene items you should consider stocking up on. Diapers, pads, tampons, and even shampoo and body wash are all items you should consider adding a 14-day supply of to your cart. 

In general, it’s a good idea to take a peak around your house before you go shopping for your two week supply of goods. If you’re running low on common goods like laundry detergent or trash bags, it might be a good idea to pick those up at the store as well—just so you can avoid taking multiple trips out in public. 

During a pandemic like this, it can be compelling to stockpile food and other household items, but try to only buy what you need for a few weeks. Buying too much and hoarding goods leaves others empty handed. Even during shelter-in-place orders grocery stores will still be open and likely offering home delivery options, so you can still self-isolate. 

Medicine and Supplies

When it comes to gathering medical supplies for a quarantine or shelter-in-place mandate, diabetics should focus on two categories: everyday supplies and sick day supplies. 

Everyday supplies

Infectious disease experts recommend that chronically ill individuals stock up on about a month’s supply of their routine medications and supplies. With a few weeks of worth of medications on hand, you’ll have enough to avoid frequent trips to the pharmacy and to take care of yourself should you get sick and need to quarantine. 

Medications and supplies to consider stocking up on are:

  • Insulin and other diabetic medications
  • Emergency medications (like Glucagon)
  • Pump infusion sets and reservoirs 
  • Constant Glucose Monitor (CGM) sensors 
  • Needles and syringes
  • Ketone and testing strips 

For diabetics, it’s especially important to have enough insulin or other blood sugar medications at your home. In the case that you do contract coronavirus, your sugar levels are likely to spike and require more medication to control. Viral infections usually cause rises in blood sugar levels, which can increase the likelihood of DKA. So it’s vital you have enough medicine and supplies to test and treat elevated blood sugars to decrease the risk of DKA.

If you can’t afford to stockpile insulin or are struggling to get more than a 30 day supply, you should look into a mail-order prescription service. Mail-order insulin companies deliver right to your door and often at a cheaper price than traditional pharmacies. 

Sick day supplies 

In the event that you do contract COVID-19, or even the cold or flu, having some general sick-day medications on hand is smart. A first aid kit, sugar-free cough medicine, and ibuprofen are all medications you may want to add to your cart when you’re at the store gathering supplies. Grabbing a thermometer may also be a good idea. As one of the leading symptoms of COVID-19 is a fever, it’s helpful to have a thermometer on hand to monitor your temperature—especially so you can accurately report symptoms to your doctor. 

The Extra Goodies

When sheltered, quarantined, or self-isolated in your home for extended periods, your mental health is just as important as your physical health. When buying goods to prepare for staying indoors, pick up a few activities to keep you entertained. Some options to get you started are:

  • That book you’ve been meaning to read for years
  • Puzzles, a deck of cards, or board games 
  • Nail polish and face masks
  • Video games or consoles 
  • Supplies for a new hobby – think knitting needles and yarn, paintbrushes and watercolors, or some seeds and gardening tools.

In times of uncertainty, like this pandemic, you can gain a sense of relief by managing the aspects of your life you do have control over. Stocking up on food, medical supplies, and activities are all ways you can feel more confident, comfortable, and secure during this COVID-19 outbreak. Ensuring you have access to affordable insulin delivered right to your door can further help to increase your sense of security.

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