Insulin Safety Center

Insulin Safety at Home

Mistakes with insulin can happen at home. In fact, people who have been using insulin for many years are more likely to make a mistake. The more often you perform a task, the more you may do so without acting carefully. For example, if you always keep your long-acting insulin on your bedside table and accidentally switch it with your short-acting insulin, you could mistakenly grab the incorrect insulin thinking it was your long-acting insulin. If you do not carefully read the label, you can inject too much of the short-acting form and cause a low blood sugar level.

Safety Tips to Help Avoid an Insulin Mix-up in Your Home

Do not store insulin in the original packaging carton. One step you can take to prevent insulin mix-ups in your home is to throw away the carton after opening an insulin vial. If you use more than one type of insulin, storing the vials in the original cardboard carton after the packages have been opened can lead to accidental misplacement of the wrong vial into the wrong carton could each lead to a mix-up. By eliminating the storage of vials in their cartons, the chance of this type of error is eliminated.

If you use more than one type of insulin, consider ways to distinguish them from each other. Sometimes a person who uses different insulin types may use the wrong insulin by mistake. Consider making each vial, pen, or cartridge look different by putting a rubber band around one type of insulin. You can also use colored stickers to help differentiate the insulin.

Do not identify insulin based solely on what it looks like. Some people may think that fast-acting insulin is the only insulin that's a clear liquid. But that's not true. For example, insulin glargine (Lantus) is a clear, 24-hour insulin. Likewise, not all intermediate- or long-acting insulins are cloudy. For example, some pre-mixed combinations of intermediate- and rapid-acting insulins are cloudy.

Never rely only on the container or label color to identify your insulin. The label color can be used as a guide to identify insulin, but it should never be used by itself. In some cases, different types of insulin may have similar label colors. Always look carefully at the label and read it before using any insulin. Insulin that is usually stored in one location can be accidentally switched by accident or by another person. If you use your insulin based on where it is stored (e.g., a butter compartment in a refrigerator) and inject it without reading the label carefully, the wrong insulin and dose might be used. Always read the label before using your insulin.