Managing Insulin in an Emergency

From wildfires to hurricanes, disasters seem to be getting more and more common. Being prepared for an emergency is important for everyone, but it’s even more important if you have a chronic health condition like diabetes. Routines suddenly change, supplies and medicines can be hard to get and hard to store, and added stress makes it harder to manage your blood sugar. Read on for important information about storing and using insulin in an emergency.

Using Insulin

In a power outage when refrigerated insulin isn’t available:

  • Try to keep your insulin as cool as possible, but make sure not to freeze it. Insulin that has been frozen can break down and will be less effective.
  • Keep your insulin away from direct heat and out of direct sunlight, which also make it less effective.
  • For up to 4 weeks, you can use insulin in opened or unopened vials that have been stored at room temperature (between 59°F and 86°F).
  • Realistically, you may have to use insulin that has been stored above 86°F. If so, monitor your blood sugar regularly. If you’re living in an emergency shelter, let someone in charge know if your blood sugar is too high or low, so they can get help if needed. Contact your doctor as soon as the emergency is over.

Switching Insulin

In an emergency, you may need to use a different insulin brand or type instead of your usual insulin. You should work with your doctor if you need to switch insulin brands or types, but that might not be possible in crisis conditions. In that case, follow this emergency guidance from the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and be sure to monitor your blood sugar closely and get medical attention as soon as possible.

Using an Insulin Pump

If you use an insulin pump, you may be able to substitute another insulin for your usual insulin. Check the instructions for your pump to see which insulin types will work. The guidance also explains which insulin types you can use instead of your usual insulin if you need to switch from using your pump to using injectable insulin (taken with a needle).

Getting Back to Normal

When you can get your usual insulin and store it properly, throw away any insulin that was stored at room temperature or exposed to very high or low temperatures. Plan to visit your doctor if you have questions about managing your diabetes going forward or have any other health concerns.


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