In the last few years, in the United States and beyond, we've seen quite a few natural disasters, including hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, and floods. As a patient with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), it can be difficult to anticipate what you’ll need in a disaster scenario.
If you’ve ever seen any survivalist TV shows, you’ll know that most people have a “go bag,” which is a bag that is prepped and ready to go in case of emergency. As someone living with IBD myself, here’s what I believe should be in your IBD go bag in case disaster strikes.
Medical supplies to pack
A safe bet for prepping for a natural disaster is to make sure you have a week’s worth of supplies. This includes all your medications (prescription and over-the-counter) and ostomy supplies.
If you think inclement weather is heading your way, store all your daily supplies in or near your emergency bag — that way you won’t have to search for them when you have to get out of town quickly. Make sure to write down all your medications, dosages, and the phone numbers of your doctors on a piece of paper inside your bag, and make copies of your insurance cards and ID; once you get to a safer place, you can use this information to work on getting refills of anything you may need.
IBD-specific supplies to pack
Living without electricity or running water for a while can make life with IBD incredibly difficult, so you’ll need to improvise where you can, keeping a major focus on staying hydrated during this time.
Make sure to have these items in your emergency kit or go bag:
Changes of clothes. This is a given, but make sure you have a full set of clothes in your emergency bag, aside from clothes you may pack in your suitcase. Ideally, your emergency bag is with you at all times because of medical necessity, whereas you may get separated from your other belongings.
Wet wipes. I can’t say this enough: wet wipes upon wet wipes. Not only are these easy on your butt, but they’ll come in handy if you’re without running water. Wet wipes are a good option for cleaning your body or small messes. They’re also helpful if you have an ostomy leak. Have an ample supply.
Rehydration salts. Rehydration salts are an amazing tool for staying on top of dehydration. In the event that you may go a while without running water, you’ll want to grab a few packs of these so you stay hydrated. You can get rehydration salts at most sporting good stores.
Water. Depending on the size of your bag, you’ll want to pack pre-filled water bottles. As many as you can. The Department of Homeland Security recommends one gallon of water per person per day, for at least three days. Not only will you need to make sure you don’t get dehydrated, but you may also need clean water for changing an ostomy appliance or cleaning any wounds.
Food. You should also pack at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food. Make sure to include foods you know will be easy on your stomach.
Plastic bags. Store a handful of garbage bags inside your emergency bag in the event that you have an accident and need to keep soiled clothes or bedding separate. They’re also good for disposing of used ostomy supplies.
Toilet paper. A roll or two of toilet paper is always a good idea, but keep in mind that it can get smashed or wet, which makes it unusable. If you’re going to stock up for an emergency, wet wipes may be a safer bet.
Self-starting heating pad. If you’re someone who relies on a heating pad for pain management, I suggest snagging a couple of self-starting heat packs. These are gel-filled heating pads that have a button that starts a heating mechanism without the need of electricity. They’re great to have around, and when you get to a new location you can recharge them with hot water to use again.
Portable toilet. If you’re currently in a flare, or you’re regularly flaring, you may want to consider having a portable toilet ready to go, especially if you anticipate sitting in evacuation traffic. Dealing with a natural disaster is incredibly stressful, and getting stuck without a toilet for extended periods of time is just going to add to that stress. If you’re someone who isn’t comfortable going to the bathroom in the great outdoors, this is a good purchase for you.
Pop-up privacy tent. If you’re going to pick up a portable toilet, I’d also suggest a pop-up privacy tent. These tents are a cheap, simple way to give you a little cover where you are when you need to use the bathroom.
Beyond these considerations for people living with IBD, the Department of Homeland Security’s website Ready.gov has a complete list of other items you may consider packing in your disaster kit.
Navigating your way through a natural disaster is a difficult situation for anyone, but people with IBD face unique challenges. Do your best to anticipate your specific needs and to take all precautions to hopefully ease any discomfort that may be headed your way. If you live in a place that is prone to these types of disasters, start making your list now, purchasing supplies you may need, and getting ready so that when the next one hits, you’re as prepared as you can be.