How to Manage Your Chronic Disease During a Disaster

road and sign pointing to evacuation route

Natural disasters, such as hurricanes, floods, tornados, and wildfires, can be stressful if you are managing a chronic disease. Learn how to prepare and reduce your risk of serious illness during a disaster.

How to Stay Healthy During a Disaster If You Have....
  • Disasters, or any change in routine, can be especially upsetting and confusing for people with Alzheimer’s or related dementiaexternal icon. Be aware of signs of anxiety or agitation in people with dementia and be prepared with strategies to calm them during times of stress.
  • People with dementia sometimes wander and can become easily lost. Don’t leave the person with dementia alone when their routine or environment is disrupted.
  • If you have a family member in a long-term care facility, find out about its disaster plans and rules for visitors during those times.
  • If you have trouble moving or getting around, make a note of that in your emergency planexternal icon. Think about how you will stay mobile during an emergency.
  • Keep medicines for pain and other arthritis symptoms handy, and plan for special medicine needs, such as scheduled infusions or refrigeration of medicines like biologicals.
  • Keep any assistive devices you use to get around where you can find them quickly.
  • Avoid hard physical work like disaster cleanup to prevent joint injuries that can worsen your arthritis symptoms. Learn more about things you can do to manage arthritis.
  • Be prepared for an emergency with an emergency supply kit. The kit should include your doctor’s contact information and a list of your medicines and doses. It should also include enough bottled water and food to last at least 3 days, enough medicine and medical supplies to last at least 7 days, and contact information for people who are important to stay in touch with.
  • If you have a cancer survivorship care plan, keep it in your disaster supply kit. Bring it with you if you need to leave your home.
  • If you are being treated with chemotherapy, watch for signs of an infection, such as chills and sweats, a sore throat or new mouth sore, nasal congestion, or vomiting. Call a doctor right away if you notice any signs or symptoms of infection.
  • Get more emergency tips for patients with cancer from the National Cancer Institute.
  • Follow the Diabetes Preparedness Plan pdf icon[PDF – 871 KB]external icon. Store at least 14 days of diabetes supplies in your disaster supply kit and consider having an extra glucagon emergency kit.
  • Keep your insulin, supplies, and equipment in your disaster supply kit. Insulin loses some effectiveness at extreme temperatures, but it can still be used for 28 days at room temperature up to 86°F. Learn how to store insulinexternal icon.
  • Check your feet every day for cuts, redness, swelling, sores, blisters, corns, calluses, or any other change to the skin or nails. Call a doctor as soon as possible if you see an injury or wound.
  • For more information, visit the Diabetes Disaster Responseexternal icon website or call 1-800-342-2383.
  • For some people with epilepsy, seizures can be triggered by flashing lights, sounds, lack of sleep, stress, or other triggers. If possible, know what triggers your seizures.
  • If you are staying at a shelter, make sure the staff know you have epilepsy.
  • Talk with people surrounding you such as family, neighbors, co-workers, and friends about what to do if you have a seizure. Teach them how to help you and things to do in case you have a seizure.
  • Learn more about Epilepsy and Disaster Preparedness.
  • Include information about your local dialysis center in your emergency plan and disaster supply kit.
  • Ask your dialysis center for their disaster plans and where you will get treatments if the center is closed during a disaster. Your local health department may be able to help with transportation to the dialysis center or recommend another place if yours is closed. If you need more help, call the Kidney Community Emergency Response (KCER)external icon Hotline at 1-866-901-3773.
  • If you cannot get your treatments, follow the 3-Day Emergency Diet pdf icon[PDF – 189 KB]external icon and keep the foods on this diet in your disaster supply kit. If you are pregnant or have an infant or child who is on dialysis, talk to your doctor or dietitian about changes to this diet.
  • In case of a power failure, if you have a home dialysis machine, you may be able to do manual exchanges until the power comes back on.
  • Learn what to do in an emergency if you need dialysis.

Learn more about how to protect yourself and your loved ones during a disaster.

Page last reviewed: March 3, 2022