When we talk about prepping strategies, more often than not, we only talk about prepping for healthy adults without a pre-existing health condition. However, just because you have diabetes or another pre-existing condition doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared.
Prepping with diabetes is inherently more complicated than prepping without the disease.
Since diabetics often require various medications and a special diet, it’s important that anyone with diabetes is thoroughly prepared to survive for days, weeks, or even months without access to the regular medical supply chain.
In fact, people with conditions such as diabetes are particularly vulnerable during emergencies because they often require medication and other specific supplies that may not be available when SHTF. So, being prepared is critical for someone with diabetes or any other health issue.
Unfortunately, there is almost no reliable information out there for diabetic preppers. But, it’s important that people with diabetes have the information they need to adequately prepare themselves for an emergency.
So, in this article, I’ll discuss the different things that you can do to be prepared for any emergency if you or a loved one has diabetes.
Plus, I’ll cover different strategies for prepping with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes so you can be ready whenever SHTF.
The author is not a doctor. The article shall not be mistaken for medical advice, it is for information purposes only. Neither the author nor www.thesurvivalistblog.net disclaim any responsability as a direct or indirect result of employing the advice in this article.
What Is Diabetes?
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s talk a bit about what diabetes actually is. Essentially, diabetes is a disease that causes your blood glucose (a.k.a. blood sugar) levels to be too high.
Having glucose in our blood is normal. In fact, it’s essential for life because our body relies on it for energy. Our blood sugar levels go up whenever we eat something, whether it’s a carrot or a pack of M&Ms.
In a perfect world, whenever our blood sugar levels get too high, our body releases a hormone called insulin from our pancreas. Insulin naturally pulls glucose out of our blood, and stores it in our muscles until we need it again.
Conversely, if our blood sugar levels get too low, our pancreas will release a hormone called glucagon that takes glucose out of our muscles and puts it into our bloodstream.
For people who are not diabetic, this process happens naturally. Diabetics, though, either have a problem producing insulin, or their bodies just don’t use insulin efficiently.
This means that a diabetic’s blood sugar levels can get way too high, which could lead to a life-threatening medical emergency called diabetic ketoacidosis.
But, it’s important to keep in mind that there are multiple types of diabetes. The best-known kinds of diabetes are Type 1 and Type 2, so we’ll briefly discuss them here.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is often called “juvenile diabetes” because most people are diagnosed with it as a child (though you can be diagnosed later in life).
Type 1 diabetes is what’s known as an autoimmune disorder, which means it’s the result of the body attacking the insulin-producing cells in its own pancreas.
Essentially, people with Type 1 diabetes cannot produce their own insulin or cannot produce enough insulin for their needs.
Because Type 1 diabetes can’t sustain themselves with their own insulin production, they must regularly take insulin to survive. Thus, Type 1 diabetes is often referred to as “insulin-dependent diabetes.”
Type 2 Diabetes
Unlike Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes is not an autoimmune disorder. While people with Type 2 can produce insulin, they either don’t produce enough of it or their body doesn’t use it well.
When this happens, the body constantly has high levels of blood sugar while the cells in the body aren’t getting enough energy to function properly.
Most people with Type 2 diabetes develop it later in life, though it is possible to develop Type 2 as a child.
Most people with Type 2 diabetes manage their condition with a special diet and a variety of medications. Generally speaking, most people with Type 2 diabetes do not need to take insulin on a regular basis, but some Type 2 diabetes do take regular doses of insulin for their condition.
But, while people with Type 2 diabetes can almost always benefit from more exercise and a healthier diet, these things will not necessarily help someone with Type 1 diabetes, as they need insulin and a low-sugar diet.
How to Prep With Diabetes
It turns out that your strategy for prepping with diabetes will really depend on the type of diabetes you have and what your current treatment plan is. So, I’ll discuss prepping plans for both Type 1 and Type 2 separately.
But, depending on your unique situation, reading the prepping advice for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes might be useful to you. This is particularly true if you’re a Type 2 diabetic that requires insulin to manage your condition.
Prepping With Type 1 Diabetes
Most adults with Type 1 diabetes have been managing their condition for their entire life. Additionally, most parents of children with Type 1 diabetes do a whole lot of research to ensure they can provide their children with the best possible care.
So, my goal here is not to tell you how to manage your diabetes in an emergency. Rather, I’m here to help you come up with ideas for prepping with diabetes so you can stay happy and healthy even when SHTF. Here’s what you need to know:
Perhaps the biggest concern for any Type 1 diabetic in an emergency is insulin. Since regular doses of insulin are essential to any Type 1 diabetic, any situation that makes it impossible to get insulin is potentially life-threatening.
However, insulin also needs to be stored properly to be effective, so even if you have enough of, your problems aren’t solved. Keep the following in mind:
- Stockpiling Insulin Is Difficult. Unlike most emergency supplies, which you can buy over-the-counter, insulin is, expensive and generally prescription-only. So, you’re at the mercy of your health insurance company when it comes to how much you can stockpile. One of the best ways to maximize your insulin stores is to always refill your prescription as soon as it’s ready. This is usually 6 days before you need to, so, over time, you can build up a small stockpile.
- Find A Way To Refrigerate. Most guidelines state that insulin will only last for 28 days without refrigeration. While 28 days is a pretty decent amount of time, you should be prepared to survive for longer than a month. In these instances, a propane-powered fridge or a mini-fridge that you can run off of a generator is ideal.
- Consider Generic. Insulin is expensive, so opting for generic insulin is potentially a good idea especially if you’re trying to buy it in bulk. Generic insulin is available for relatively low prices at pharmacies in stores such as Walmart and Sam’s Club, BUT, it is different from what most Type 1 diabetics are prescribed. So, if you’re considering this route, be sure to talk to your doctor before you take a new kind of insulin.
If you’re having a lot of trouble getting enough insulin to prepare for an emergency, you can try calling your insurance company to see if they will provide you with a 90-day refill instead of a 30-day refill. Of course, 90 days of supplies isn’t very much, but it’s better than nothing.
Prepping Tips For Type 1 Diabetics
While stockpiling insulin is incredibly important for Type 1 diabetics, it is not the only thing you need to do to be prepared. Here are some other tips for prepping with Type 1 diabetes:
- Create A Supply Bag. In addition to your regular stockpile of supplies, anyone with Type 1 diabetes will want to create a dedicated “diabetes” supply bag. Ideally, this would contain enough supplies to last you at least a month. It’s also a good idea to make this bag highly portable, just in case you need to take it with you while bugging out. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) has a great checklist of diabetes-specific supplies that you should have on hand.
- Keep Snacks Available. Even though you should already have plenty of food in your stores, having an assortment of both high-sugar and no-carb snacks in your bug out bag and emergency stockpile can help a Type 1 diabetic stave off hunger in an emergency. This is particularly important if you have a child with Type 1 diabetes.
- Have Lots Of Water. Type 1 diabetics need to drink a lot of water, so you should plan to have multiple ways to treat water in an emergency. For your home stockpile, it’s a good idea to have large quantities of water in storage. For your everyday carry and bug out bag, don’t forget to include a few bottles of water, too.
- Stockpile Testing Supplies. While testing supplies should already be included in your diabetes supply bag, these items are easy to stockpile, so it’s worth having more than you think you need. Important things to have include test strips and pen needles, so try and buy these products in bulk if possible. Oh, and don’t forget to have a second glucose monitor and spare batteries, too.
- Buy Vitamins. Many people with Type 1 diabetes need immune support, so having an assortment of vitamins available can be very important. There are some studies that suggest Vitamin D might be helpful in controlling blood glucose levels. So, consider having both Vitamin D and regular multivitamins in your emergency stores.
- Consider Urine Test Strips. If your blood glucose monitors can break, you might want to consider purchasing urine glucose test strips as a back-up. These are less convenient and slightly less accurate than the strips you use with a glucose monitor, but they’re better than nothing in an emergency.
Rationing Supplies With Type 1 Diabetes
If you do end up in a SHTF situation and you or a loved one has Type 1 diabetes, you may need to start rationing your supplies. Of course, I hope it never has to come down to this, but if you do need to ration, it’s important that you do so as safely as possible.
Here are some things to consider when rationing your diabetes supplies:
- Lancets. Lancets are used for finger pricks to draw blood for blood glucose monitors. The official recommendation from the CDC is that lancets should not be used by more than one person. However, you can buy reusable lancing devices that can last for months if stored and cleaned properly. There’s always a risk of infection when reusing your own lancets, but it is something to consider if your situation gets dire.
- Needles And Pens. Generally speaking, one should never reuse a needle or a syringe, especially if it’s being shared between multiple people. However, a small-scale 1980 study found that people may be able to reuse their own needles multiple times, although the evidence was inconclusive. That being said, many diabetics do reuse their needles multiple times each day to save money. There are risks involved in reusing needles, but if you’re in a desperate situation, you may decide that this is a risk you’re willing to take.
Prepping With Type 2 Diabetes
While Type 2 diabetes is a serious disease, it is generally easier to prep with Type 2 diabetes than it is with Type 1 diabetes if you’re not insulin-dependent.
However, if you are an insulin-dependent Type 2 diabetic, you also need to consider how you will acquire and store insulin, just like a Type 1 diabetic would.
If you do not need to take insulin for your diabetes, much of your diabetes-related prepping will revolve around food and medication. Since most Type 2 diabetics can manage their blood sugar levels with diet, exercise, and medication, the prepping process is a bit easier.
Here are some things to keep in mind when prepping with Type 2 diabetes:
Food Stockpiles For Type 2 Diabetes
Most people with Type 2 diabetes have had to sit through a number of lectures about what to eat and what not to eat to manage their condition. So, most Type 2 diabetics know that their diet generally has to be more or less sugar-free and generally low-carb.
Unfortunately, a lot of the food that we stockpile for emergencies is very sugary and full of carbs. For diabetics, this just won’t work.
So, it’s a good idea to fill your stockpile with healthier food choices that are low-sugar and nutrient-rich. Consider adding the following to your stockpile:
- Dried meats
- Canned/pouch fish (especially tuna and salmon)
- Canned beans
- Mixed nuts (especially almonds and walnuts)
- Dried beans
- Dried lentils
- Dehydrated vegetables
- Canned vegetables
- Egg powder
- Dehydrated hummus
- Popcorn (buy kernels in bulk to air pop at home)
- Protein bars (made especially for diabetics)
Generally speaking, canned food is quite affordable, so many people choose to buy it in bulk for their supplies. But, a lot of canned foods have surprisingly high levels of sodium and other preservatives, so you may want to consider canning your own vegetables.
Additionally, dehydrated vegetables are a great way to store a lot of food for a long period of time. However dehydrated food can be quite expensive, but you can always dehydrate your own to save money.
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All you need is to buy a dehydrator for your home and you can make your own dehydrated diabetic-friendly food supplies with ease.
Medication Stockpiles For Type 2 Diabetes
Many people with Type 2 diabetes are on some form of medication. Everyone is different, so it’s important to talk to your doctor about what medications you may need to manage your diabetes.
However, prescription medication is one of the most important things we need to stockpile, particularly if it’s for a potentially life-threatening condition, like diabetes.
Since I’ve already discussed stockpiling insulin, in this section, I’ll focus more on stockpiling other medications and medical supplies for Type 2 diabetes.
Here are some tips for stockpiling medical supplies for Type 2 diabetes:
- Refill Early. As I mentioned with stockpiling insulin, you can often refill your prescription up to a week before you need to. It’s always a good idea to do so since refilling early allows you to build up a small stockpile over time. The more medication you can store, the better, so always refill your prescription early.
- Talk To Your Insurance Company. While you can sometimes choose to pay extra to get a larger stockpile of medicine, many of us don’t have a lot of disposable income to play with. So, you can try talking to your health insurance company to see if they’re willing to cover a 90-day refill instead of a 30-day refill to give you more of a buffer. The answer might be no, especially for controlled meds, but at least you exhausted all of your options.
- Store Your Meds Properly. Some medications require constant refrigeration, while others are a bit easier to store. Regardless, it’s important that you have a plan in place for storing your meds post-SHTF. This might involve purchasing a small gas or generator-powered fridge. You should also ensure that wherever you’re stockpiling your meds is cool and out of direct sunlight. It might be worth installing a thermometer in your stockpile room so you can monitor the temperature in there to keep your medications in good condition.
- Have Backups. If you rely on a glucose monitor, make sure you have a second monitor in case your original one breaks. You’ll also want to have plenty of lancets on hand, too, for finger pricks, and as many test strips as you can store.
- Create A Diabetes Supply Bag. It’s nice to have all of your diabetes-specific supplies in one place if you need to bug out quickly. Pack extras of all of your essentials into your diabetes supply bag so you always have what you need. Even though it was created for Type 1 diabetics, this list of emergency supplies from the JDRF is also quite useful as a guide for people with Type 2 diabetes.
- Pay Attention To Your Feet. Foot care is very important for a diabetic’s overall health. Be sure to pay attention to your feet and stockpile diabetic socks so you can maintain good blood flow throughout your body.
- Don’t Forget Glucose Tablets. If you’re having a low blood sugar emergency, it’s important that you have glucose readily available. Glucose tablets are a simple and effective way to get sugar into your body quickly when you need it most. Alternatively, a small tube of cake frosting can also do the trick.
- Stay Hydrated. Hydration is particularly important for diabetics, so ensure that you have a way to collect and treat water in an emergency. Consider putting a few extra water bottles in your bug out bag, too.
Managing Diabetes in an Emergency
Managing your diabetes in a true emergency situation is not easy. But, with the right planning, you can survive for a long period of time without access to medical care.
Since everybody is different, it’s important that you seek advice from your doctor if you’re concerned about how you can store your medication or ration supplies in an emergency.
Additionally, you should always consult your physician if you’re looking for low-cost or alternative ways to get insulin or other medications.
Since your diabetes management plan is unique to your needs, you want to be sure that you aren’t messing with your medications, and potentially putting your health at risk when SHTF.
Gaby is a wilderness survival expert, mountaineering guide, and professional outdoor educator, with specialties that include firearms handling and wilderness medicine. She is also a freelance writer for a variety of outdoor and survival publications.