A Type 1 diabetes guide to COVID-19 + Birmingham resources

Birmingham, T1D, type 1 diabetes, flu 2018
Daily life as a T1D with my insulin and syringes. Photo by Patience Itson for Bham Now

If you’re a Type 1 diabetic like me, you may be feeling extra anxiety in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, don’t forget we’re all in this together. Take a look at some advice from medical professionals for staying safe as a T1D—including resources and support groups in Birmingham.

The Situation

So you’re just going about your T1D life business as usual when talk of the coronavirus is everywhere. It’s on the news and all over every social media platform. For most, the thought of catching this new virus is worrisome. For those with T1D, it’s downright scary. I know, because I’ve been a T1D and “insulin-challenged” for 26 years now.

A number of thoughts are still circling around inside my head daily:

  • What if I end up with severe complications? 
  • What if I run out of insulin?
  • What if pharmacies shut down?

The fear factor can truly overtake you. That’s why I thought all of you T1Ds out there could use a helpful guide that provides hope instead of fear. 

Diabetes + COVID-19

Birmingham, diabetes, Camp Seale Harris
Photo via Camp Seale Harris on Instagram

As T1Ds, we all wish we didn’t have:

  1. A disease.
  2. A disease that is labeled “serious”

But, it’s good to know why it is serious—especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. That way we can all be prepared.

According to the American Diabetes Association and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation:

  • Type 1 diabetics ARE NOT at a higher risk of contracting the coronavirus (if in good diabetes control).
  • Type 1 diabetics ARE at a higher risk of serious complications if they contract the coronavirus—especially those in not-so-good control, and if they have another condition along with T1D.

There’s been a lot of talk out there saying “it’s just the flu.” 

Well, when you have Type 1 Diabetes, getting the flu can be very dangerous. So whether we get the flu or the big bad COVID-19, it should always be taken seriously. 

Before you leave the house, consider those of us who are at higher risk of serious complications if we contract the coronavirus. We’d all really like to be around to enjoy life after quarantine 2020.

Always Be Prepared

Birmingham, diabetes, Type 1 diabetes, diabetic supplies
Stock up on insulin, test strips, syringes + more. Photo by Patience Itson for Bham Now

It may be the Boy Scout motto, but it’s just a really great plan to live by. Especially when diabetic.

  • Ensure you have diabetic medical supplies on hand and access to refills in the event you are quarantined. 
  • Contact your physician and make sure all prescriptions are current and have the maximum number of refills available.
  • Consider backup medications, like having long-acting insulin on hand if you are a pump user and the pump malfunctions. 
  • Call your insurance company to understand emergency refill prescription policy. (More on this later.)
  • Stock up on simple carbohydrates (crackers, regular soda or hard candies) to help keep your blood sugar up if you are at risk for lows and too ill to eat.
  • Stock up on extra supplies like ketones strips and glucose tablets.

Have your doctors numbers on hand in case you encounter these symptoms:

  • Vomiting/diarrhea (more than 6 hours)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever that won’t go away for several days
  • Large level of ketones
  • Inability to keep food or liquids down and are experiencing hypoglycemia

For kids, call their doctor if they:

  • Have trouble breathing or are experiencing blue lips
  • Won’t eat or drink
  • Experiencing severe ear pain
  • Are much sleeper than usual

What to do if you get COVID-19

  • Contact your diabetes specialist. They can help ensure you have a sick day plan to follow.
  • Continue monitoring your blood sugar and implement your sick day rules. Be sure to check for ketones closely.
  • Stay at home for 14 days from the day you first experience symptoms.

Pharmacies and Refills

The line at pharmacy drive-thrus are getting longer during COVID-19 outbreak. Photo submitted

As I’m sure you know, the state of Alabama issued an emergency order in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Who else checked their insulin supply as soon as they found out? 

If you don’t have much insulin left and are worried you’ll run out before your insurance company will pay for a refill, there’s something you should know: during a state-issued emergency order, the declaration may trigger a prescription refill waiver. 

What does this mean? That pharmacists are allowed to refill prescriptions early if they deem a medication, such as insulin, is critical to saving a person’s life or maintaining their treatment plan. 

For more information on prescription refill waivers, call your local pharmacy and health insurer. 

You can also:

  • Follow your local health department on social media for postings on waivers.
  • Check your local Board of Pharmacy website for more information.

Are you struggling to pay for insulin or know someone who is? The American Diabetes Association has resources that can help

Speaking of insulin…

Birmingham, diabetes
Photo via lifetouch.com

If you’ve worried that manufacturers will suddenly stop making your insulin or pump supplies, you aren’t alone. 

According to sites like the American Diabetes Association and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, manufacturers have confirmed that there is nothing hindering their ability to manufacture insulin. Phew!

On an insulin pump? The following companies have distributed public statements about their supply chains. 

Resources

Looking to be a part of a Type 1 diabetes community in Birmingham? Here’s a list of local nonprofits, Facebook groups and even some hilarious T1D-inspired meme pages on Instagram to check out.

Nonprofits

JDRF Alabama Chapter (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation)
Southeastern Diabetes Education Services/Camp Seale Harris

When all of this coronavirus quarantining fades away, be sure to check out Camp Seale Harris—a summer camp designed specifically for kids with Type 1 diabetes.

I went to CSH for seven years—ages 8-14—and I can honestly say it changed my life as a diabetic. And today, I still have an amazing support system from fellow T1Ds I became friends with so long ago at camp.

Do you operate a non-profit in the Birmingham area? Add your organization’s info to our free nonprofit guide database.

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Do you know of more Birmingham resources for those with Type 1 Diabetes? Be sure to let us know on social @ bhamnow!