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Helpful Hints in the Use of Insulin

How  to store insulin

Although manufacturers recommend storing your insulin in the refrigerator, injecting cold insulin can sometimes make the injection more painful. To counter that, you can store the bottle of insulin you are using at room temperature (36-86º) for about one month. Do not keep bottles in a hot place like near a heater or in direct sunlight. Also, do not keep them near ice or in places where the insulin may freeze.

If you buy more than one bottle at a time, store the extra bottles in the refrigerator. Then, when needed, take out the bottle ahead of time so it is ready for your next injection. Unopened bottles are good until the expiration date on the box and/or bottle.

Do NOT use insulin after it has been kept at room temperature for longer than a month. Also, do not use insulin after the expiration date printed on the bottle.  Examine the bottle closely to make sure the insulin looks normal before you draw the insulin into the syringe. Insulin aspart, lispro, regular, or glargine should be clear and not cloudy. Check for particles or discoloration of the insulin. NPH, ultralente, or lente should not be “frosted” or have crystals in the insulin or on the insides of the bottle, or small particles or clumps in the insulin. If you find any of these in your insulin, do NOT use it. Return unopened bottles to the pharmacy for exchange or refund.
 

Syringes

Most people use plastic syringes, which are made to use once and then throw away. Some people use a syringe two to three times. If you reuse a syringe, follow the steps below:

  1. Flush the syringe with air to prevent the needle from clogging.
  2. Do not wipe the needle with alcohol. This removes the Teflon coating.
  3. Recap the needle when not in use.
  4. Store the syringe at room temperature.
  5. Keep the outside of the syringe clean and dry.
  6. Throw away the syringe if the needle is bent or dull or if it has come in contact with any surface other than skin or the top of the insulin bottle.
  7. Discard if the calibration lines are difficult to read from wear.
  8. Be sure to check your skin around your injection site for unusual redness or signs of infection.
  9. Never share syringes.
  10. An insulin pen should never be stored with the needle still attached, as this can lead to insulin leakage and air in the cartridge.

How do I dispose of syringes?

It is a good safety practice, and good for the environment, to dispose of syringes and lancets properly. The following are guidelines for proper disposal:

  • Dispose immediately after use into a heavy-duty, non-breakable container—one that cannot be punctured—such as a coffee can or detergent container.

  • To decrease the chance of another person using your syringe after you dispose of it, separate the plunger from the barrel. Do NOT recap, bend, or break needles.
  • When the container is nearly full, it should be covered, taped, and labeled “contaminated.” Dispose according to local and state medical waste rules. Each city and town has its own rules for throwing away used needles. Check with them about throwing away your needles. If your town doesn’t have specific rules, check with a local hospital. Do NOT put in recycle bins.

Page last updated: April 17, 2014