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Diabetes

Unrefridgerated insulin

11/07/2005

Question:

In the past several weeks of hurricane coverage, I`ve heard it mentioned several times that diabetics are having problems because they can`t keep their insulin refridgerated. How long does insulin last? how cool does it have to be? does it stop working all together? or just not as well? How `bout at room temperature? thanks.

Answer:

The primary goals for insulin storage are to store insulin in an even temperature, in a motion-free environment, and within the "safe" temperature range listed on the container of insulin. Extremes in temperature, changes in temperature, and motion can cause insulin to lose potency.

It is recommended that un-opened bottles or cartridges of insulin be stored in the refrigerator. This recommendation is based on the assumption that a refrigerator is a constant temperature. Insulin should not be stored in the door of the refrigerator because the temperature varies, and because it is exposed to motion every time the door is opened and closed. Insulin should not be stored in "cold" spots in the refrigerator, so that it doesn't freeze.

Opened bottles or cartridges of insulin can be stored in the refrigerator or in room temperature. If storing insulin at room temperature, avoid exposure to frequent changes in temperature, and be sure to avoid exposure to heat or cold.  Do not store insulin on a windowsill, near the stove or oven, near a heater, or near a lamp or light bulb. NEVER leave insulin in the car - most months of the year, the inside of a car will be too hot or too cold for safe storage of insulin.

If storing opened insulin at room temperature, be sure to know the temperature limits for insulin storage (listed on the insulin container) and keep aware of the room temperature where you are. For example, if your home is not air-conditioned, and if it is 90 degrees in your home, then "room temperature" is above the temperature limit for safe storage of insulin. In this example, both un-opened and opened containers of insulin should be stored in the refrigerator.

Remember to keep track of the date you open insulin. Opened containers of insulin should not be used indefinitely, because of the potential for contamination and loss of potency. Check with your diabetes care provider or the insulin manufacturer for instructions on how often to open new insulin.

When insulin loses potency, blood glucose levels will rise and become inconsistent. Often the insulin will still work somewhat - just not as well. It can cause confusion when trying to determine what part of your diabetes plan is not working. It can contribute to days or weeks of high blood glucose levels. For all of these reasons, we work hard to protect the potency of insulin.   

Related Resources:

American Diabetes Association

For more information:

Go to the Diabetes health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Nancy J Morwessel, CNP, MSN, CDE Nancy J Morwessel, CNP, MSN, CDE
Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
Diabetes Center
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati