Diabetes insulin storage and safety

Storing insulin safely can keep you safe and prevent damage to the product.

Keeping diabetes medication and supplies stored properly helps ensure your safety and the product’s purity. Insulin is a medication that has special storage requirements. Depending on the type of insulin you take (rapid, short, intermediate or long), your insulin products come with specific instructions for storage. Insulin medications and meters should not be stored in extreme heat or freezing temperatures.

Storing Insulin

Life happens; we travel, work and we are on-the-go, and our insulin travels with us. For individuals with diabetes, and especially for those with type 1 diabetes, insulin regimens need to be on-point and working without error. For that reason, it is recommended that you have a plan in place in case you are experiencing issues with your insulin medication.

Insulin purity issues

According to the Institute for Safe Medication Practice (ISMP), common insulin storage and usage factors include:

  • The temperature - Temperature does affect insulin. It can’t get too hot, it can’t get too cold. Avoid using hot, warm or frozen insulin. If you’re keeping your insulin in the refrigerator always have a refrigerator thermometer in your refrigerator.
  • Light – Insulin is sensitive to sunlight and indoor light. Don’t store insulin medication on the window ledge.
  • Clarity - Looking at your insulin vial will tell you a lot. For instance, it shouldn’t look cloudy; have any clumps, sediment or crystals.
  • Odor - Insulin should not have a bad smell or odor.
  • Expiration dates - Don’t use bottles past their expiration date no matter what the cost considerations are.
Your emergency insulin plan

Maintaining correct insulin management at the appropriate times along with monitoring your blood sugar will help prevent high or low blood sugar. This includes knowing how much extra insulin to take based on the blood sugar reading.

It’s worth noting that changes in diet, exercise, alcohol and illness will affect the amount of insulin you use. This is yet another good reason to have backup insulin supplies (syringes & pens) and a go-to plan and safety kit ready.

Tips for if you are out of insulin completely or are in an insulin emergency:

  • If there is time contact your healthcare provider – Chances are they have sample vials of your insulin that can get you through until you can get your prescription filled.
  • If there is an insulin emergency or if you need insulin within hours, visit your local emergency room or urgent care.
  • Talking with your health care provider about your prescription quantity. Does it provide you with enough insulin incase backup insulin is needed?

To learn more about protecting yourself in a diabetic emergency, talk with your health care provider and pharmacist. For more diabetes information, visit Michigan State University Extension .


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