As insulin is vital medicine for millions with diabetes around the world, its maintenance and storage are also very important for keeping it safe to use. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes it as essential medication (especially for people who need it for lifelong treatment).
To ensure optimal quality and potency – people with diabetes have to have more in-depth knowledge of how to properly store insulin at home. Having the right temperature insulin on hand every time one will need, is a key prerequisite to successful treatment.
The thing with insulin is that it is a really temperature-sensitive drug. The range varies from 2°C to 8°C [36-46°F], which is categorized as a ‘cold chain product’. These low temperatures have to be maintained throughout the whole transportation process starting with the manufacturers through distributors, pharmacies, and the end consumer’s home.
For long-term storage of insulin up to its expiry date, most manufacturers require the refrigerator temperatures between 2°C to 8°C [36°F – 46°F]. Short term solutions for daily insulin users are above 8°C, at room temperature or up to 25°C – 30°C [77.0 °F – 86.0 °F]. For reaching the optimal storage conditions of your specific type of insulin, we recommend you carefully read the manufacturer’s instructions on storage recommendations.
Overlooked risks of ‘at home insulin storage’
We want to raise awareness on this topic because we recognize the need for many people with diabetes who are highly dependent on daily insulin shots (and also want to live their lives with less stress around their condition). Since we all own or rent a refrigerator where we live – you can also master the management of your insulin dose storage.
The first and main concern of storing insulin at home is, of course, finding the right temperature. Every household refrigerator is built and optimized for storing food in a safe and cool environment.
- the influence of indoor temperature;
- heating device next to the refrigerator (most of the time is an oven);
- number of items in the refrigerator (new items put in it increase the temperature);
- longer periods opened / frequently opened.
Being aware of the constant use of this household device that we control entirely manual in comparison to professional pharmaceutical refrigerators equipped with ventilators – makes it even harder to decide where exactly to situate your insulin. Due to the fluctuating temperature in the different compartments, it is critical to think twice before deciding on the permanent place for insulin. One tip we can give you in this direction is that a closed compartment or airtight container where you need to pull or open (separately from opening the main door) is the way to go here since the cold air will not escape that quickly.
Those who are busy on a regular workday have lower awareness of their environment. It is difficult to notice small temperature drops or picks in your refrigerator when stretched between your job tasks, family duties, and maintaining normal blood sugar levels. Trained professionals whose job is monitoring and controlling insulin storage places are hyper-aware of following strict quality control.
Assessing the risk of injecting expired or not properly stored insulin is higher if it is being kept at home, rather than if it is being stored in pharmaceutical facilities where clear protocols are followed.
NEVER use insulin if:
- expiry date on the vial / prefilled pen is reached;
- insulin is looking discolored or cloudy;
- insulin is/was frozen or exposed to higher than recommended temperature;
- insulin contains lumps/flakes or sticks to the glass.
Knowing the guidelines for insulin storage is another critical point. And we mean – in-depth knowledge of national and international laws and protocols. USA, EU, WHO, and manufacturers have official written instructions on the right way of storing every type of insulin whereas in comparison to a regular user – the level of acquired information is much lower.
Ways to properly maintain and store insulin to reduce risk
Here are some tips on how to reduce the stress and burden of living life every day with diabetes:
- Put a thermometer in the fridge right next to your insulin and monitor it daily when grabbing food.
- You can call us crazy in the comments but we found out that beauty fridges can cool down to 4.44°C – 10°C [40°F – 50°F] which is the exact recommended temperature for long-term insulin storage. These new products are gaining popularity in the beauty community and could be an alternative cooling solution for individual use of everybody with a diabetes condition.
- Another tip (that is not in the realm of the latest trends) is writing down the date you bought the insulin and sticking it in the fridge.
- When transporting insulin from point A to point B you need to use cooling bags. If they are with ice packs the insulin doesn’t have to be in direct contact with them.
- Every time you buy insulin consult with your health care professional if there is any change in its storage. The best temperature for new batches or formulas sometimes slightly changes, so be sure to ask if there are any.
- Inform yourself about the latest good practices around insulin types, dosage, and storage.
Improving your education about insulin storage is a big factor in your overall blood glucose management. Make yourself a priority to reduce the constant stress of living everyday life with diabetes by reading and learning about the topic of insulin storage.
By examining just a piece of the whole diabetes management – we painted a small part of this complex condition. If you would like to have the full picture in one frame – then you need to try the Diabetes:M app where you can track and analyze your diabetes and keep it under control.
More resources on the topic:
U.S. Food and Drug Administration Requirements for insulin storage
IDF Europe awareness paper on insulin storage
DDRC recommendations for safe storage of insulin
Insulin Storage Recommendations at Room Temperature by the Diabetes Teaching Center at the University of California, San Francisco
EADSG Guidelines: Insulin Storage and Optimisation of Injection Technique in Diabetes Management
Insulin Storage and Dispensing Info by Diabetes Education