Priority Medications During A Hurricane

Posted by on May 31, 2013 in Hurricane Awareness, Tips and Tricks | Comments Off on Priority Medications During A Hurricane

The CDC and the FDA have joined together to compile information regarding safe drug use after a natural disaster, including medications that may be sensitive to extreme situations.

Heat and Water Conditions

Medications exposed to extreme heat should be thrown out and discontinued use. Life-altering medications should be replaced as soon as possible. If the medication within the container looks normal to you, you may continue to use the drug with caution.

Medications exposed to flood water or possibly contaminated water may also become contaminated. Pills, liquids, injections, inhalers and topical ointments can cause serious health risks. Even drugs in their original containers with lids and caps should be thrown away if they come into contact with possible contaminated water in any way. Life-altering medications exposed to contaminated water should also be discarded until proper replacements become available. If the contents appear unaffected (a pill appears to be dry), the drug can be continued with caution.

Drugs that must be mixed with water in order to be made into a liquid form should only be mixed with purified or bottled water.

Drugs Requiring Refrigeration

In some instances, certain medications require refrigeration. If the medication has been removed from refrigeration due to power loss, the drug should be thrown away. Life sustaining medications like insulin can be used until a new supply of the medication becomes available. Those taking these medications that may have had a temperature change should use these medications with extreme caution as sensitive drugs can lose potency if the temperature doesn’t remain constant.

If a replacement can’t be supplied quickly enough or if you become concerned about the safety of a certain drug, you can reach out to local health departments or the Red Cross for help.

Insulin Situations

You should try to store Insulin in a cool, dry place as best as you possibly can, with optimum temperatures ranging from 36 to 46 degrees F. This includes keeping the medication away from extreme heat (direct sunlight) and extreme cold (freezing). Extreme temperatures like this can cause insulin to lose its effectiveness and cause health complications. Unrefrigerated insulin medication (59 to 86 degrees F) can last up to 28 days. As soon as replaced insulin becomes available, exposed vials of insulin should be thrown out.

Under certain emergency condition, insulin switching may need to occur. Although under optimum conditions, this switching should be monitored by a physician, however in emergency situations this may not be possible. Some of these options can


Some vaccines have been manufactured to support potency even if temperatures become elevated, however they are not able to survive significant temperature increases. A thermometer in a fridge or freezer can help you better determine whether a vaccine has remained potency. Should a flood be expected, vaccines and biological materials should be removed from floors and low sitting containers and properly secured at a higher level.

Any vaccines exposed to flood water or exposed to higher temperatures have the risk of becoming contaminated and should be thrown out.

Medical Devices

Medical devices that depend on electricity should have alternate forms of power BEFORE a storm hits, as part of emergency preparation. Those depending on medical devices should request evacuation as an extra precaution. Devices should be kept clean and dry to reduce the risk of electrical shock and fire, and they should be kept out of direct sunlight. They should be used in a well lit area to be able to fully assess any damage that may have affected the device.

Those using medical devices should make their situation known to electrical companies in order to better their situation during a power outage. Should the power become restored over a period of time, the medical device should be checked to ensure that settings haven’t been altered.

In the case that a medical device should need water in order to use, you should only use bottled, boiled or purified water. DO NOT reuse a medical device that should only be used once. Should you find that you need to use a similar device, you should contact a health care facility. Pieces of a device should be sterilized after use according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Heat or humidity can greatly alter some medical devices like blood glucose meters and test strips. Quality tests should be regularly done to ensure that the device is working properly.

Great care and preparation should be taken with medications and special devices, especially if any medications are life-altering. Make sure you are securing and storing your medications properly even before a storm.