You can manage your diabetes better and with less stress if you know that you've got everything you need to care for it. You'll also know you're prepared in case of diabetes emergencies.
Use this guide to diabetes-care supplies to help make sure you're always well-stocked. If you're a young adult just starting to live on your own or are new to caring for an older person with diabetes, this guide can help you start off on the right foot.
Glucose Monitoring Supplies
- Glucose testing strips
- A monitor, which usually gives readouts within 5 seconds
- A carrying case for the meter and, if you take insulin, your insulin, pens, needles, and alcohol swabs
- Lancets and lancing devices
- Liquid kits, to make sure your meter readings are correct
Some kits include other items, like a clear cap for testing on different parts of your body. All monitors have a memory feature that keeps track of your past glucose readings. Some will compute your daily average blood sugar.
If you have problems with your eyesight, some monitors have a voice function that tells you how to check your sugar and gives you your test result. Some monitors also have a larger font size. Contact the National Federation for the Blind for a list of products that can help.
If your kit doesn't include one, it's useful to also have:
- A record book for tracking your blood glucose levels
Must-Haves if You Use Insulin
If you inject insulin for your diabetes, you'll want to have these supplies on hand:
- Syringes, or disposable or reusable insulin pens
- A sharps container for safely disposing of needles
- Glucose tablets or gels
- 2 glucagon shot kits
Depending on where you live, you may be able to buy needles and syringes in bulk without a prescription. If you buy extra supplies of insulin to cut costs, store bottles that aren't open in the refrigerator until they expire. You may need to store pens or cartridges another way -- ask your pharmacist. You can bring cold insulin to room temperature just before using it so you have less pain and irritation. Or you can keep a bottle you're using at room temperature for up to a month. But after a month, throw out any opened insulin that isn't used.
Some syringes come with a magnifying lens. You can put it on the syringe to read the dosage easier. You can also get safety guards for shots and aids to help steady the needle when you are putting it in the insulin bottle or under your skin.
If you don't have a sharps container, you can re-cap used needles and put them in a heavy-duty opaque (not clear) plastic bottle. Sharps containers are not costly, though. Ask your local garbage removal service how to get rid of syringes and needles safely.
Glucose tablets and gels can help you avoid low blood sugar. If your blood sugar is low (below 70 mg/dL) and you have symptoms of low blood sugar, you can take 3-4 glucose tablets or one serving of glucose gel. Wait about 15 minutes and then check your blood sugar levels again. If they are still low, take another 3-4 glucose tablets or a serving of glucose gel. Continue testing and treating in the same way until your blood sugar levels are normal. (If your meter reading is low but you have no symptoms, you should probably retest first to confirm your blood sugar is low, then proceed as above.)
You need to keep glucagon with you at all times. But why two kits? If you use one, you'll have another on hand in case an emergency happens before you can get to a drugstore. Glucagon expires in about a year. Keep track of the date so you can ask your doctor for a new prescription before it expires. Make sure that the people you're around the most know where you keep your glucagon and how to use it in case you pass out.
If you use an insulin pump, keep these supplies handy:
- Rapid or fast-acting insulin
- Infusion sets
- Reservoirs to hold the insulin
- Extra batteries
- An emergency supply of syringes or insulin pens in the unlikely, but possible, event that the pump stops working
If you use an insulin pump, it's always good to have extra infusion sets on hand, because you need a new one every few days. And they do get yanked out sometimes. Some diabetes educators advise keeping an emergency syringe or pen and insulin in your purse or wallet if you pump.
Another important item to stock if you have type 1 diabetes is:
- A home ketone test, to test for ketones in your urine or blood
This can help you know how well insulin is working to fuel cells. You can get home ketone test strips for urine at your local drugstore. Some of the newer home blood-sugar meters can also measure ketone levels in the blood. But the ketone test strip for meters is different than the one used for checking your blood sugar.
Diabetes Food Stash
To keep your blood glucose at good levels, it's a good idea to have:
- Glucose tablets or other emergency sugar sources
- Healthy snacks for between meals
- Low-sugar drinks (including water) to stay hydrated
Keep a good supply of fast-acting sugars in several places -- such as a backpack, purse, gym locker, and car -- in case of sugar lows. Glucose tablets are easy to carry. Other possible sources include apple or orange juice or regular soda. Chocolate is not good because it takes longer to digest. If you live with other people, let them know these supplies are not for them to eat.
Diabetes Emergency Supplies
For emergencies, have on hand:
- Medical alert ID (such as a bracelet, necklace, or card) that says you have diabetes
- Emergency contact information
- Emergency preparedness supplies
The American Diabetes Association recommends storing 3 days’ worth of diabetes supplies in case of emergencies such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tornados, or blizzards. Depending on how you manage your diabetes, this could include diabetes pills, insulin and insulin supplies, extra batteries, and quick-acting sources of glucose, as well as standard supplies such as food that doesn't spoil, and water.
Store these supplies in a waterproof container in a place where you can get to them easily. You may want to keep a set of emergency supplies at home, work, and in your car.
Skin Care Supplies
Diabetes can affect every part of your body. Prevent dry skin and tend to cuts or other wounds right away -- it can help prevent infections and skin conditions. These items can help you care for your skin:
- Mild or moisturizing soap
- Skin moisturizer
- Antibiotic cream or ointment (if your doctor advises using it), sterile gauze, and paper tape or cloth bandages for cuts
- Mild shampoo
Foot Care Supplies
Take good care of your feet to help yourself avoid foot problems that people with diabetes tend to have. These supplies can help:
Dental Care Supplies
Diabetes raises your chances of getting gum disease and other dental problems. Keep these supplies handy for daily mouth care:
- A toothbrush with soft, rounded bristles, which are less likely to hurt your gums than the stiffer bristles on a standard brush
- Fluoride toothpaste
- Dental floss, to clean away plaque and food from between teeth and below the gum line
- Antiseptic mouthwash to rinse daily
Replace your toothbrush when the bristles are worn, or every 3 to 4 months.