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Maintaining Your Health during Disasters

By Jean Dwyer, EDEN POC & Extension Communications Specialist

Prescriptio bottles

More than 150 million Americans take at least two prescription drugs and more than 30 million people are on at least five prescription medications. Many of these drugs are required daily to control such medical issues as chronic and respiratory diseases, arthritic pain, diet, mental illness, or even to avoid a possible transplant rejection (Huffington Post & Wikipedia, 2014). But imagine being without these medications during a natural or manmade disaster.

If you or a loved one have a medical condition of any kind that requires medication, it’s important to be disaster ready and here’s how:

  • Keep your medications together in their original labeled bottles in a grab-and-go style container. That way you can grab them quickly in case of an emergency. Keeping them in pre-labeled bottles makes it easier to get refills and it tells a doctor what kind of medication and the dosage you were taking.
  • If vitamins are on your daily routine, make a list of the brand names, types, and serving/dosage you are taking since there is such a wide variance in vitamin manufacturing. It’s also wise to keep a week’s worth of vitamins in your medical disaster go-bag in a pillbox that can be obtained from a local pharmacy. Note: Change the vitamins out monthly to maintain their potency.
  • If you or a loved one needs supplemental oxygen you should plan for an emergency by keeping a supply of portable oxygen equipment on hand, even if the normal lifestyle of the oxygen user does not involve the need for such equipment. Having a charged portable oxygen concentrator (POC) with it’s battery pack plugged into the wall and waiting next to your disaster go-bag, ensures that you or your loved one will be able to make it until you can reach a reliable source of supplemental oxygen (UCSF Medical Center, 2015). Take your charger with you as you can recharge the POC from a car. Be sure and get the oxygen user out of the disaster-affected area as soon as possible and back onto a secure oxygen supply matching the prescribed amount of oxygen.
  • If you or a loved one has a strict dietary need such as glucose tablets for diabetes or gluten- or nut-free foods for persons with allergies, then adequate supplies for three to seven days should be a part of your emergency go-bag. Such specialty food items might be difficult to acquire after a disaster even in official relief shelters due to a shortage of supplies. And, fresh food donations provided by a concerned public cannot be trusted without a clear understanding of the possible and devastating effects of food allergies or the dangers of cross-contamination.

Remember, adequate preparation BEFORE a disaster strikes may be all that stands between you or your loved one and a MAJOR secondary disaster. So, why not take the time to get your medical emergency go-bag ready before disaster strikes.


Huffington Post. (2013, June 19). Prescription drugs: 7 Out of 10 Americans take at least one, study finds. Huffpost Healthy Living.

List of countries and dependencies by population. (2015, January 22). In: Wikipedia: The free online encyclopedia.

UCSF Medical Center. (2015). Supplemental oxygen: Traveling with oxygen. Patient Education.

UCSF Medical Center. (2015). Supplemental oxygen: Your oxygen equipment.