Advice for handling medications during an emergency

Time to put my pharmacist hat on. It’s hurricane season! As Harvey has hit Texas and Category 5 Irma is crossing the Caribbean (looks like it’s heading my way), it seems we’re in for a bumpy hurricane season. So here are some important tips for people who take medications or for those who have a parent or family member who takes them. These can also apply in any emergency in which you must leave your home.

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  • Pick up your prescriptions early.

If you’re anticipating an event in which your pharmacy will not be open for several days or you will not have access to it and you are running low on medications, go to your pharmacy and pick up your prescription early. Usually, pharmacies don’t allow early refills unless there are extenuating circumstances such as traveling or an emergency. If you’re running low on medications, for example, only having enough for 4-5 days, pick up an early refill.

For patients like diabetics who inject insulin, make sure you have enough syringes.

  • Keep a complete list of your medications with instructions on how to take them and medical conditions.

This is particularly important for patients who manage a lot of medications (more than 5 meds) with different or complex instructions (ex. take 2 daily, take another medication at night, take another in the morning before breakfast). The list will also be helpful for family members who help patients manage their medications so it’s easier to keep track of everything.

The list of medical conditions is important because (let’s hope not), a patient is unconscious or unable to speak. By keeping a list in your wallet or on your person, any emergency medical personnel can have an idea of the patient’s background

Ex. if he’s diabetic he might have low blood sugar or need insulin. If a patient is epileptic and is unconscious he might’ve had a seizure.

  • Stow your medications and medication list in a waterproof bag.

Keeping everything dry so it doesn’t get ruined is important. If you must leave your home putting everything in a waterproof bag will help prevent water from seeping in. Medications should be kept in a dry, cool place so as not to ruin them or contaminate them with the outside environment. Your medication list could be kept with your meds or on your person if you can keep it dry so it won’t get ruined and become unreadable.

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  • Don’t share your medications with others and don’t take someone else’s.

Sharing medications can be extremely unsafe. Health care professionals always advise against it. If you’ve run out of medications and need a resupply fast try to contact someone who might be able to help you, including emergency medical personnel. Sometimes patients might get confused with medication name’s or doses. For example, a patient might be taking the same medication as you but it might have a different dose or the name might be similar. This lends itself to medical emergencies.

  • Keep your medications separate from other family members to avoid confusion.

If you have more than one member of your family carrying medications be mindful to pack them separately so as not to confuse them. This is why it’s important to keep labels on them, you can distinguish each medication and know which one is for who. But in a rush people might not look at labels and just pick out that round white tablet. This can lead to giving the wrong meds to the wrong person.

  • Keep a list of emergency phone numbers
  • For patients who receive home care or visits from nurses make the proper arrangements for transferring patients if necessary.

This post is a bit rushed so if you think of something else that can be added feel free to share it!

Hope everyone stays safe this hurricane season.

5 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing these hurricane-related tips and hope you weren’t affected too much by the storms!

    Sharing medications is definitely a no-no but unfortunately it happens! One of the kids in my oncology clinic does not have prescription drug coverage, so the nurse case manager gave him a supply of ondansetron that was dispensed to another patient that was no longer needed. It was a temporary solution that worked in the grand scheme of things, so I turned a blind eye to that haha 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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