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Highlighting Your Health: Preparation before disaster key for those with chronic illnesses

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By Vidant Health Communications

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

When hurricanes or other natural disasters impact communities, it disrupts life in many ways. For those with chronic conditions, navigating these disruptions means preparing for the worst and having an excess of the life-saving medication they depend on.

Dr. Bryan Kitch, medical director of emergency preparedness and response for Vidant Medical Center and assistant professor for emergency medicine for ECU, said those with chronic illnesses should have at least 10 days’ worth of medication on-hand in the event of a natural disaster.

“Preparation really is key when it comes to natural disasters,” Kitch said. “This is especially true for those who may be dealing with chronic conditions or who may have a loved one who is dealing with chronic conditions because they rely on their local doctors or pharmacies for access to life-saving medication, and that access may be impacted in the event of something like a hurricane.”

Eastern North Carolina is no stranger to hurricanes. Just last year, Hurricane Florence devastated local communities. It left many stuck in their homes without power, awaiting the help of first responders. In events like that, Kitch said having a surplus of prescription medication in addition to food and water is vitally important.

“One of the things a lot of people don’t know, is that you can get a few weeks’ worth of medication at one time,” Kitch said. “The best thing to do is to call your health care provider before an event occurs to see how to have a surplus of your prescriptions handy.”

In addition to having prescriptions filled and ready, Kitch also said people need to understand their medication — particularly how it should be stored. Some medications, like insulin, require refrigeration or temperature-controlled settings. While a generator is always a good resource to have during a natural disaster, it is especially so for those with diabetes, as it can help keep their insulin at the right temperature.

It is also important to think about how you are storing your medication. For example, not all pill containers are water-proof. In many cases, water can actually damage the medication. Kitch said having a water-proof container that can hold medications and important documents is another important thing to consider.

Should someone find themselves in a situation where their medication has run out or been compromised, Kitch said to locate the nearest Red Cross for assistance.

“You should be thinking about hurricanes and disaster preparedness year-round,” Kitch said. “It’s important to know that there are local community resources who are here to help you be prepared. When it comes to prescriptions and conditions, speak to your care provider. The time to have this plan in place is now.”

Highlighting Your Health is an educational segment courtesy of Vidant Health that appears twice a month in The Daily Reflector. Vidant is a mission-driven, 1,708-bed health system that annually serves a region of more than 1.4 million people in 29 eastern North Carolina counties. As a major resource for health services and education, Vidant’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina.

Highlighting Your Health is an educational segment courtesy of Vidant Health that appears twice a month in The Daily Reflector. Vidant is a mission-driven, 1,708-bed health system that annually serves a region of more than 1.4 million people in 29 eastern North Carolina counties. As a major resource for health services and education, Vidant’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina.

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