About half of all Americans take a prescription medication as part of their daily routine. Yet, according to a survey done by FEMA in 2012, only 8 percent of respondents said they have medications in their emergency supplies kit.
Because a large-scale disaster, such as a hurricane, could make it difficult to find an open pharmacy where you can get your prescription filled, it is important that you organize and protect your prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, and vitamins to prepare for an emergency.
- Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about creating an emergency supply of essential medications.
- An up-to-date list of all prescription medications that also includes information on diagnosis, dosage, frequency, medical supply needs, and known allergies.
- Nonprescription drugs, including pain and fever relievers, diuretics, antihistamines, and antidiarrheal medications.
- A cooler and chemical ice packs for storing and keeping medicines cold in a power outage.
- Keep all medications somewhere that does not experience temperature extremes or humidity, and is Up and Away from and out of view of children and pets.
- Consider signing up for mail-order medication delivery if available.
- Some states have emergency prescription refill laws that authorize pharmacists to dispense early refills under an emergency declaration. Contact your state health department or board of pharmacy or talk to your pharmacist to learn more about the law where you live.
- Flu antiviral drugs work best when started within two days of symptoms starting. Don’t delay because your regular pharmacy doesn’t carry your medication. Use MedFinderexternal icon to locate a pharmacy that can fill your prescription.
- Organize and protect prescription medications to prepare for flooding. Place medication bottles or packages in a waterproof container or bag, such as a freezer-safe, re-sealable plastic bag.
- Stay up to date on your vaccines for infections and illnesses, such as tetanus and seasonal flu.
- Know the shelf lives and proper storage temperatures for your prescriptions, including insulin. Medicines kept in areas with high humidity or fluctuating temperatures, such as like a bathroom cabinet, or left in direct light degrade faster and can lose effectiveness.
- Pet owners: Work with your veterinarian to prepare an emergency supply of medications, and a one-month supply of flea, tick, and heartworm preventative.
- People living with diabetes: In an emergency, you may need to use a different insulin brand or type. You should work with your doctor if you need to switch insulin. If medical supervision is not possible under emergency conditions, follow this emergency guidance from the US Food & Drug Administrationexternal icon (FDA). Make sure to closely monitor your blood glucose and seek medical attention as soon as possible.
- Know how to safely dispose of expired, unwanted, and unused medicinesexternal icon, including prescription medications, to help prevent adverse drug events.
- Public Health Matters: Preparing Your Medicine Cabinet for an Emergency
- Public Health Matters: 3 Types of Post- Disaster Poisonings to Know, Prepare For
- Managing Insulin in an Emergency
- Safe Drug Use After a Natural Disasterexternal icon (FDA)
- Information Regarding Insulin Storage and Switching Between Products in an Emergencyexternal icon (FDA)
- Emergency Preparedness: Keeping Medications Safeexternal icon (FDA)
- Natural Disaster Preparedness and Response: Drugsexternal icon (FDA)
According to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 31 percent of hurricane-related emergency department visits in North Carolina during Hurricane Florence were for medication refills. Effective messaging to the public, healthcare providers, and pharmacists before hurricanes should emphasize the importance of prescription preparedness. North Carolina lawexternal icon permits coverage for extra prescription medication refills during a state of emergency, but laws vary by state. Contact your state public health department or board of pharmacy or talk to your pharmacist to learn more about the emergency prescription refill law where you live.