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Mobile Medical Devices During Disaster: Heat and Humidity

The follwing is fifth in a series of articles reviewing FDA guidelines on using Medical Devices in a disaster, with my comments in italics from my reflections about volunteering in medical clinics following Katrina. Concerning Heat and Humidity:

Dealing with Heat and Humidity

Heat and humidity can have an effect on home diagnostic test kits (including blood glucose tests used by people with diabetes). Test results may not be accurate. Read your owner’s manual to make sure your test kit is performing properly.

Special Information about Using Blood Glucose Meters

Heat and humidity can damage blood glucose meters and test strips.

If you use a blood glucose meter, check the meter and test strip package insert for information on use during unusual heat and humidity. Store and handle the meter and test strips according to the instructions. Perform quality-control checks to make sure that your home glucose testing is accurate and reliable.

To protect your device from heat and humidity, follow the steps below:
Use a dry cloth to wipe off your device regularly (e.g., mechanical infusion pumps).
Keep your device out of direct sunlight.
Enclose your medical products in plastic containers to keep them dry (e.g., wound care supplies).
Do not use ice if there is a danger of water contamination; use dry ice or instant cold packs to keep your device cool (e.g., prefilled syringes).
Do not use disposable devices that are wet (e.g., wound dressings, disposable thermometers, tubing)

In my experience in Katrina, noone excaped with more than the clothing on their backs, so all of their equipment were waterlogged and heat damaged. In such a extreme disaster, you'll have to depend on the shelters to provide you replacement medication and devices. Hopefully, you'll be faced with a less intense disaster, and if you are prepared with zip lock bags, instant cold packs, and a portable drink thermos, you will be prepared to keep your medication cool & dry for a few hours at least. Hopefully help will reach you in that time. It's important to keep devices in ziplock bags if you keep them in the cooler since water condensation can otherwise damage them.

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About the Author


Dr. Schwimmer's blog explores the intersection of medicine, new technologies, and the Internet.