Storing Insulin

Storing Insulin: make it last!

Michelle MacPhee
D-Mom, M.S. (Psychology)

If properly stored, insulin will maintain its effectiveness for months to years. Here we outline best practices in terms of insulin storage, how to protect it from heat and cold, and what signs to look for to tell you its time to toss that vial. Plus practical tips on handy, safe insulin storage from our family's personal experience.

Waltzing The Dragon Inc

Best Practices

  • It is advisable to store unopened insulin in the refrigerator. Do not let it freeze.
  • Once opened, you may store insulin at room temperature for about a month. (Many product monographs recommend a maximum of 28 days of use – check the insert that comes with the insulin. Insulin detemir (Levemir®) may be used for longer, up to 42 days.)

It doesn’t matter if you store the opened insulin cartridge/vial in the fridge between uses – this does NOT extend the one-month time period in which insulin can be used after opening. Once opened and/or warmed to room temperature, the clock is ticking, even if you store that container in the fridge for 27 days of that month.

To keep track of when to start a new insulin cartridge or vial, it may help to mark on your calendar the date to start a new cartridge. You could slso write the date the vial/cartridge of insulin was opened on the outside of the cartridge/vial with a permanent marker (if there isn’t a space to write on, you could use a small strip of white medical tape), so you know when to replace it.

Tip from the Trenches

In our family we have chosen to store the cartridge/vial that is currently in use in a designated drawer in our kitchen (at room temperature). That way, everyone knows where to find it when needed, and the insulin is always at room temperature. (Cold insulin may sting more when injected, and may cause air bubbles when used in an insulin pump.)

Protect Insulin from Heat

Waltzing The Dragon Inc
Frio Insulin Wallet

Insulin must not get too hot (temperatures greater than 30C).

  • Keep it away from direct sunlight.
  • Do not leave it in a car on a warm day, or in the beach bag at the lake or beach.
  • Store it in a cooler with an ice pack when you are away from home. Or in a wide-mouth thermos bottle with an ice cube.
  • Frio® insulin wallets are a portable, re-usable storage container which keeps the contents chilled for up to 45 hours.

Tips for Insulin Pumps

  • These guidelines apply to pump users also. If your child disconnects his or her pump at the beach, for example, it would be wise to store it in a well-insulated cooler (on the beach or in the car). As temperatures inside a car on a hot day can be especially high, a disconnected pump should not be left unprotected in the car.
  • In very hot weather, it would be wise to change out the insulin in your child’s pump every 2 days (or more frequently, if necessary). Also, a Frio® pump case (used while your child is wearing the pump) may be helpful in guarding against very high temperatures.

Warning Signs that your insulin may not work anymore...

It is usually advised to throw out insulin if:

  • it has been open for more than one month.
  • the clear insulin becomes cloudy.
  • the cloudy insulin will not mix evenly, clumps, or leaves a frosting on the inside of the bottle.
  • it has been frozen or exposed to very hot temperatures (>30C).
  • It is past the product expiry date.

More on protecting insulin & pumps from:


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The above information was significantly modified, with permission, from The Alberta Children’s Hospital Diabetes Clinic information handouts.

The above information was reviewed for content accuracy by clinical staff of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Diabetes Clinic.