Insulin Safety Center

Insulin Safety at Home

Staying safe with insulin in your home: avoiding an insulin mix-up

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.

Below are some tips to help avoid an insulin mix-up in your home:

Throwing out the carton after opening an insulin vial is one measure that can be taken to avoid insulin mix-ups in your home

• Insulin vials stored in the original cardboard carton after the packages have been opened or accidental placement of the vial into the wrong carton could each lead to a mix-up.

• By eliminating storage of vials in their cartons, the chance of this type of error is eliminated.

If you are using more than one type of insulin, consider using two different insulin devices to inject your insulin.

For instance, use a vial and a needle/syringe for your long-acting insulin and an insulin pen for your rapid-acting insulin.

• If you are unable to use different devices, then consider making each vial, pen, or cartridge look different by putting a rubber band around one type of insulin. [It would be nice to have a picture of a rubber band on an insulin vial to show how distinguishing can help the confusion]

• You can also use colored stickers to help differentiate the insulin.

Do not ever assume you are using the correct insulin based solely on what it looks like or where it is stored.

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. [Maybe add a picture that shows a clear insulin vs cloudy 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 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. Differentiate any similar looking insulin products (e.g. place a rubber band around one type of insulin).

ALWAYS read the label before using your insulin

Insulin that is usually stored in one location can be accidently switched by accident or by another person. If you use your insulin based on where it is stored (e.g. butter compartment in refrigerator) and inject it without reading the label carefully, the wrong insulin and dose might be used.