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Storing Insulin and Prefilling Syringes

Topic Overview

Insulin can become damaged and ineffective if it is not stored properly.

  • Unopened insulin that is packaged in small glass bottles (vials) should be stored in the refrigerator.
  • Insulin that is packaged in small cartridges (containing several doses) is more stable. It may be kept unrefrigerated, but it will last longer if it is kept in the refrigerator. Insulin cartridges are used in pen-shaped devices (insulin pens) with attached disposable needles.

Always read the insulin package information that tells the best way to store your insulin.

You can keep open bottles with you if you keep them in a dark place. The bottles should not be exposed to temperatures below 36°F (2.2°C) or above 86°F (30°C). Never leave insulin in the sun or in your hot car, because sunlight and heat reduces the strength of the insulin.

Avoid shaking insulin bottles and cartridges too much to prevent loss of medicine strength and to prevent clumping, frosting, or particles settling out. Follow the storage information provided by the manufacturer.

The first time you use an insulin bottle, write the date on the bottle label. Always store an extra bottle of each type of your insulin in the refrigerator.

If you cannot prepare an insulin dose but can give the injection, you may need someone to prepare your insulin dose for you. A family member, friend, or health professional can prefill insulin syringes for you. If you prefill syringes:

  • Store prefilled syringes in the refrigerator with the needle pointing up to prevent insulin from blocking the needle opening. Syringes filled with one type of insulin (rather than mixed insulin) will keep for 30 days.
  • Store different doses separately. For example, if your morning dose is different from your evening dose, have a different container for morning and evening injections.
  • Before using a prefilled syringe, allow the syringe to warm for 5 to 10 minutes. Gently roll the syringe between your hands to warm the insulin. If the syringe contains a cloudy insulin, make sure all of the white powder is dissolved before giving the shot.
  • Another option is to use an insulin pen. You do not have to put insulin into a syringe. You put a cartridge of insulin into the pen.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Last Revised July 11, 2013

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