Medical practitioners and pharmacists may remind us to keep extra insulin in the refrigerator, but how often do we get more detailed information about caring for diabetes supplies? Using medication or products that are expired or stored improperly might affect blood glucose readings and levels. Below are some tips that may help keep diabetes supplies safer and more effective.
Insulin may lose effectiveness when exposed to extreme temperatures, and the longer the exposure to extreme temperatures, the less effective the insulin may become. It is generally recommended that unopened vials of insulin and pens in their outer packaging be stored in a refrigerator (approximately 36-46 degrees Fahrenheit). Avoid freezing insulin or storing it next to ice packs. Do not expose it to direct heat or direct sunlight.
Properly stored and unopened insulin may be used until the expiration date on the package. Insulin that is not refrigerated can be used at room temperature for 28 days from the time of opening. (Read more about safely and effectively storing insulin.)
Some substances, including vitamin C and uric acid, may interfere with glucose testing. In addition, high altitudes, extreme temperatures and humidity may affect testing accuracy. Check your meter manufacturer’s instructions for more information about what may impact glucose testing results, and read the FDA’s Tips to Increase Accuracy and Reduce Errors in Test Results from Glucose Meters.
As with other diabetes tools, test strips should never be exposed to extreme temperatures. The cap on a canister of test strips should be kept closed at all times to protect the strips and keep out moisture and debris.
Note the expiration date on the test strip box or canister. Test strips, even if stored properly, might give false readings when past their expiration date.
Extreme temperatures may compromise an insulin pump, so if you plan to be out in the sun or out in the snow for extended periods of time, taking precautions may keep your pump – and the insulin inside it – safe.
If you are outside in cold weather, you may want to wear your pump close to your body and cover it with warm clothing. If you are in a hot environment, protect it from prolonged direct sunlight. You may also use a protective pouch with a cold (but not freezing) gel pack to further protect your supplies from the effects of heat.
When it comes to diabetes, the list of sharp supplies is long: lancets, syringes, insulin pens with needles and infusion sets for insulin pumps. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, “there are about 9 million Americans who use needles or other sharps to manage their medical conditions at home. This amounts to more than 3 billion used needles and other sharps that must be disposed of outside health care settings each year.”
When sharps are not disposed of properly, they may pose a risk to household members, including children, as well as to trash and sewage workers, janitors and housekeepers. Never place loose needles and other sharps in household or public trash cans or recycling bins, and never flush them down the toilet. Pharmacists and other healthcare professionals may be able to help you find an FDA-cleared sharps disposal container. If no such container is available, you can use a heavy-duty plastic container such as a laundry detergent bottle. A proper container will be upright and stable, leak-resistant, have a tight-fitting puncture-proof lid, and be properly labeled.
Avoid overfilling your sharps container. Once the container is full, check with the local trash removal service or health department to learn the safest way to dispose of it. (Read more tips for disposing of sharps.)
If you have further questions or concerns about the safety and effectiveness of your supplies that are not covered in the manufacturer’s instructions, contact the manufacturer directly. And make an appointment to talk with someone on your diabetes care team.
Jessica Apple is the co-founder and editor in chief of the online diabetes lifestyle magazine A Sweet Life. Her writing has appeared in many publications, including The New York Times Magazine, The Financial Times Magazine, The Southern Review, The Bellevue Literary Review and Tablet Magazine. Apple is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor and interviewees, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.
© 2015 The DX: The Diabetes Experience