Updated: Mar 27
With more and more countries going into lockdown, many people are concerned about whether they have all the necessary medical supplies they need should we end up housebound.
For the majority of people, ensuring they have a good supply of food and toiletries is all they have to think about. As a diabetic, I can hand on my heart say I'd be more concerned about the amount of insulin or testing strips I have over toothpaste and bread.
It's important to remember that even if the UK does go into complete lockdown, we as diabetics will still have the opportunity to place an order for a prescription and pick it up as normal. This is an essential service, much like being able to go to Tesco's or ASDA to get general supplies.
Despite this, the caveman like behaviour of society at supermarkets and food chain outlets has made everyone increasingly more anxious over whether they'll be anything left for them and their families. I find myself asking whether this is the COVID-19 or Rage virus pandemic? (28 days later reference), because that's what people seem to be treating this like.
Whilst you might find it hard to panic buy medical supplies (as GP's/Pharmacy's will only allow so much), for me it was important to order the medication and supplies I needed early, so that I don't end up feeling lost in the inevitable uncertainty that would come with a lockdown.
Insulin is by far the most important thing to have, regardless of the current situation! With the UK now on 'lockdown', I should imagine that there will be a sudden increase in prescription demand. I don't doubt for a second that I wouldn't have access to the medication I need, but I might be a bit wary about how long it will take me to get it.
If you're on an insulin pump, make sure you have enough insulin cartridges so that you're not waiting around for too long. Make sure you order your prescription BEFORE you're close to running out... not as you run out!
The same applies for pen users. Order before you run out (both basal and bolus insulin).
If you're on a pump, perhaps see if you can get yourself a backup pen and pen-specific cartridge insulin in case your pump was to fail. I've always had this backup option and so I have spare insulin at my fingertips if my pump were to go off the rails.
The best thing about stocking hypo treatment is that you can just buy it from the shop! It's important to remember that supermarket shops will remain open during this period, and so grabbing a bag or two of your favourite sweets or a few can of cokes is easily done. If you want to buy in bulk, this might be a good choice.
Personally, I went out today and bought myself two bags of the sweets I use to treat hypos. With all this panic buying, I wanted to make sure that I have access to sugar should I need it. I'm not saying go out and rinse the shelves, but I think it's a good idea to have it at the ready.
Blood testing kit
This is something every diabetic should already have, so I doubt any of you will be panicking about finding one. However, as we all know, there are a handful of things that we need to maintain in order to use our kits.
Testing strips are really important for being able to test your blood glucose, maintain glucose control and to calculate insulin dosages. There have been countless times in my past where I've put off ordering more strips because it wasn't high enough on my priority list, but now is the time to make it a priority.
From experience with different pharmacies, it can sometimes be difficult to obtain the testing strips you need within the days following your order. It's really important that you check your current supply and decide whether or not ordering some more is a good idea. If you find that you only have one or two pots left, it will be a good idea to put in a prescription.
I have no idea whether there will be any delay in the supply of these items, but it's always better to be safe than sorry. If you are unable to get any, I have in the past looked at amazon to get an emergency box, such as Aviva testing strips, Freestyle lite strips.
Once again, there have been countless times where I've let my different glucose meters run their batteries flat. Depending on the meter you have, you might need to either charge it or replace its battery every so often. If yours, like mine, requires the battery to be changed, make sure you have a spare battery around somewhere safe. If you don't, find out what battery your meter needs and get some spares as soon as you can.
Spare glucose meters
If you're like me, you would have gone through several different meters over the years of your sentence. Unless you have the Freestyle libre, it's good to have a spare just in case yours packs in. If you're unable to get a spare through prescription, you could always look online. Here's a cheap one that does the job.
Insulin Pump supplies
Insulin pump supplies can sometimes take some time to get to your doorstep. If you feel like you only have a week or two worth of supplies left, order some more now, as I'm sure there will be an increased demand.
If you feel as if you won't get your pump supplies in time, seek to get an insulin pen back up supply (worst case scenario).
Insulin delivery is essential!
If you're on pens, make sure you have plenty of needles to hand. The last thing you need is to end up running out and not being able to get some more the same day. Again, if you're running on the lower side, order some more now!
Whilst all of the listed supplies above are important, this is especially important given the circumstances. Being very unwell can lead to a complication known as Diabetic Ketoacidosis. This is caused by a lack of insulin in the body as well as high blood glucose. During illness, it's important to test for ketones regularly if your sugars are running high. DKA is a serious condition that can be fatal if left untreated.
There are two main methods of testing for ketones that I've used:
Having a supply of either of these is very important at this time and should be made a priority for us diabetics.
You can read more about what ketones are and what they mean here.
Free style libre
These handy pieces of kit are already quite difficult to get a hold of. As some may know, earlier this year they had a shortage and as such some of us weren't able to get our prescription as quickly as we might have liked. If you only have one left, now is the time to see if you can order some more. These are a good substitute to testing your blood glucose with strips if you feel that getting more strips might be difficult. You can look at non-prescription purchasing here.
For more information about what Coronavirus is and how it might cause problems with diabetics, click here.
Managing your diabetes during isolation/lockdown
This is an extremely busy time for those working in the NHS and other healthcare services. I'm unsure about how easy it will now be to access guidance and advice from your diabetes team during this crisis.
If you're after general management tips and advice (not medical advice), I've written a handful of self-help eBook guides based on my own experience living with Type 1 Diabetes. My control has always been excellent, and I've managed to live life to the full over the last 11 years. Use discount code 'March50' to get 50% off any package.
Keep calm and wash your hands!