Insulin storage and preparedness

Daily and emergency care plans are important for storing insulin.

First aid kit

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, the medication will come with specific instructions for storage.

Insulin purity and storage

For individuals with diabetes, insulin regimens (insulin strength, manufacturer, type, injection site or method of administration) need to be on-point and working without error. Life happens, so you must be prepared for any situation. Whether you are traveling or staying-in-place, insulin supplies should be ready and reliable. For that reason, it is recommended you have a medication plan in place.

There are many types of insulin and they are not all the same. A proper storage routine can help you avoid mix-up and monitor your supply. According to the Institute for Safe Medication Practice (ISMP), common insulin storage and usage factors include the following.

  • Temperature does affect insulin. It cannot get too hot, it cannot get too cold. Avoid using hot, warm or frozen insulin. If you are keeping your unopened insulin in the refrigerator, always have a refrigerator thermometer in your refrigerator.
  • Insulin is sensitive to sunlight and indoor light. Do not store insulin medication on the window ledge.
  • Looking at your insulin vial will tell you a lot. Avoid using insulin if a white substance resembling milk curd or sediment is present.
  • Insulin should not have a bad smell or odor.
  • Do not use bottles past their expiration, no matter what the cost considerations are.
  • After opening an insulin vial, throw out the carton so you do not inadvertently store the wrong insulin in the wrong carton.
  • Insulins can have similar names. If you are using more than one type of insulin, consider using two different insulin devices. Some people use rubber bands or color-coded stickers to link medication with the correct device.
  • Always read the instructions. Some insulins may have the similar labels. Be sure you are reading the instructions on the vial before use.
  • If you keep your insulin in the refrigerator, designate a spot for your insulin. Let family members know your self-care depends on proper, well-maintained storage.
  • If you are ever in doubt about the purity of the insulin based on color, odor or date, discard the bottle and replace it with a new one.

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 is 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, such as syringes, insulin pens, pill bottles, lancets, wipes, diabetes logbooks and glucose tablets, and a safety kit.

Insulin emergency tips

  • 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.
  • Stay-at-home plans. There are many reasons why you may find yourself at home for long periods of time. Talk with your health care provider about your prescription quantity and discuss your stay-at-home insulin backup regiment.

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

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