Preventing an Addison’s Crisis

We all know that when you have Addison's disease, even though you follow your medication plan carefully, things happen which can create stresses on your body, causing a deterioration in your condition. Unlike people who do not have Addison's disease, your adrenal gland can't respond to increased demands so you need to prepare for these stressful situations and know what to do to prevent what is termed an adrenal or Addison's disease crisis.

Take Precautions

  • Always wear or carry medical identification with your name, the name of your disorder, and the phone numbers of your doctor and a responsible person.
  • When you travel, consider carrying a clearly labelled emergency kit which contains a syringe and needle, 100 milligrams (mg) of hydrocortisone, and instructions for use.
  • Avoid strenuous physical activity in hot, humid weather. If you begin to perspire heavily, drink more fluids and add salt to your food.
  • Follow your doctor's directions for increasing your daily doses of prescribed steroids during stressful times - emotional crisis, overexertion, infection, illness or injury.

Diet and Rest

  • Eat regularly. Don't skip meals or go for a long time without food.
  • Have a well balance diet.
  • Make sure you drink plenty of fluids.
  • Balance active periods with rest.
  • Don't be afraid to have salt in your diet and have more salt if you perspire a lot.

Recognise Warning Signs

Notify your doctor immediately (or go directly to the nearest hospital emergency department) if you have any of the warning signs of an adrenal crisis:

  • Loss of appetite, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting
  • Dehydration or reduced urine output
  • Increased breathing and pulse rates
  • Unusual fatigue or weakness
  • Confusion, dizziness, severe headache
  • Pallor or cool, clammy skin
  • Fever

Plan Ahead

Instruct a family member or a friend about Addison's disease explaining that they should seek medical help immediately if they find you unconscious or physically unable to take your medication by mouth. Explain that they must convey to the medical staff it is of vital importance that you are given 100mg of hydrocortisone if you are having an adrenal crisis.