Insulin is a life-saving medication for people with diabetes, but it can also be hard to keep it stored correctly. Insulin that isn’t kept in the right conditions may not be effective. Here are some storage tips to keep in mind. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions about your specific type or brand of insulin.
Get the Right Temperature
Insulin is very sensitive to temperature. Store your vial or insulin pen in the refrigerator until you open it. The temperature should be between 36 and 46 Fahrenheit (2.2 to 7.8 Celsius); use a thermometer in the fridge to get an accurate reading.
Store insulin at room temperature once you open it. Avoid direct sunlight and extreme heat or cold (such as the freezer or a hot car). Although it can seem like a good idea to keep a back-up supply of insulin in your glove compartment, keep in mind that your car is often subject to extreme heat and cold.
Keep Track of When You Opened the Insulin
When you open a new insulin vial or pen, write down the date and dispose of it after 10 to 28 days have passed. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to confirm how long your type of insulin will last, but most have a lifespan in this range. Always dispose of insulin after the manufacturer’s expiration date, regardless of when it was opened.
Visually Inspect Your Insulin Before Every Use
As an added precaution, always inspect your insulin before you use it. Look for particles, discoloration, clumps, frost, or crystals. Make sure the insulin is clear, not cloudy.
How to Store Insulin When Traveling
It can be more challenging to store insulin when you’re traveling. Plan ahead before your vacation and be careful where you leave your diabetes supplies while on vacation. Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to keep in mind.
If you’re flying:
Pack insulin in your carry-on bag. Checked baggage may be subjected to more extreme temperatures. Also keep some insulin in a smaller bag or purse so that you can have it with you during the flight.
When going through airport security, be mindful of the X-ray machine. According to the CDC, the machines can damage an insulin pump or glucose monitor. People with these devices should ask for an alternative security inspection.
If you’re driving:
Store insulin in a cooler, but avoid direct contact with ice or a gel pack. Don’t leave any of your diabetes supplies (blood sugar monitor, test strips, etc.) in a hot car. If you stop for more than a few minutes, bring your supplies with you.
What to Do if Your Insulin Is Damaged While Traveling
If your insulin is frozen, exposed to extreme heat, or you notice the appearance is off, don’t use it. Locate a nearby pharmacy for a new supply of insulin. You should be able to get a prescription in a different state in most cases. It’s a good idea to take a medication order (paper copy of your Rx) with you on vacation. Alternatively, you can transfer your prescription or ask your doctor to call it in to the pharmacy.
Properly storing insulin is just one of the challenges of living with diabetes. Cost is another major concern for patients. In recent years, insulin prices have gone up.
Some patients struggle to pay for their medication. If you’re one of them, try searching for your prescription on WellRx.com. We offer discounts on many types of insulin and other diabetes medications. You may even find that our discounted price is better than your insurance co-pay!