Gauri Angrish shares the correct manner to store and carry medication and insulin while at home or when travelling.
For people with Diabetes, storing medicines in a correct way is vital. Proper storage not only ensures that your medicines don’t lose their effectiveness, but also, enables you to be organised and up to date so that you are compliant with your prescription, even while travelling. Here are some tips to help you store your regular Diabetes medicines at home and during travel, along with special measures for your insulin.
While at home
Generally a standard practice, which is incorrect, is to store your medication in the bathroom, maybe above the stove or even on a windowsill. The correct way is to find a high cabinet that is in a cool and dry area and make that home for your medicines. Managing your medicines, especially in case you are on multiple medications, is very important so that you never run out. Keep a track of your stored medicines and always make sure that you refill before the last supply is over. Fortunately, there are a few pharmacies that offer automated reminders and refill delivery services that help you manage your medicines. Apart from making sure you store enough, organising your medicine cabinet can be very beneficial. Proper labelling helps you read the names clearly so you always take the right medicine. You can also keep a paper in your cabinet with a list of all your medicines and their dosage directions. This is very helpful, especially during emergencies, as it helps others navigate easily through your medicines and fetch the correct one.
The best place to store unused insulin vials or pens is in a cool environment like the fridge (not freezer). It is advised to store insulin that is in use at room temperature as this makes injecting it more comfortable for you. It is important to note that Insulin stored at room temperature will last approximately for two to four weeks. Insulin is very sensitive to extreme temperatures; therefore you need to be careful about where you are storing it even while travelling.
When travelling by air, always carry your medicines in your hand baggage – though you do have to be cautious about liquid medicines since most airlines have a limitation of 100 ml per bottle. Keeping your medicines in your carry-on ensures that they do not get lost and also protects them from the un-controlled temperature and pressure in the cargo, where checked in luggage is placed. A proper travel kit for medicines allows systematic storage and facilitates easy labelling. Along with detailed dosage directions of all your medicines, make sure you keep your doctors name and contact information on you at all times. This often proves to be vital in an emergency.
It makes sense to do a little homework to ascertain if it is possible to source the required medicines in your travel destination and if your prescription is accepted (for overseas travel). In case it is not, carry extra stocks accordingly. However, as a general thumb rule – always travel with at least a week or ten days of extra medicines, just in case your trip gets extended.
The best practice while travelling by air, train, road or even backpacking, is to carry your vials/pens in an insulated container in your hand luggage. There is a simple way to make an insulated travel kit using an airtight thermocol container and sealed ice packages/ice gel packs – both easily available in the market. Alternatively, there are a few good pharmacies that pre-package your insulin in such travel kits, on request. A proper travel kit for insulin is important.
If you are using insulin vials, it might be a smart move to buy and store your disposable syringes in bulk. This could help you get a better price and lacks risk as they do not have an expiry date. At home, ideally t you must place your used syringes and needles in a sharp disposal container, which is usually available at any pharmacy. While travelling, you should carry a hard plastic container jar with an airtight lid to store your used syringes. You can then safely dispose them at a later time. If space is a concern then re-sealable or self-adhesive packets can work too, just be careful of the sharp needles.
Why Original Packaging?
The safest way to store medicines is in its original packaging as it is air tight. It acts as an additional safety measure for storage and protects its quality. When managing multiple medicines, one tends to sort out ones weekly medicines by removing them from their original packaging and placing them into pillboxes. The use of pillboxes is highly recommended as it helps you adhere to your medicines. However, the pillbox will still solve its purpose of adherence if each pill is still in its original packaging.
These basic tips for storing your diabetes medicines at home and during travel should be sufficient to help you stay organized and make sure your medicines remain effective. However, some additional quality checks, like the ones mentioned below, are always advisable.
- When you start taking a new medicine, read the medicine label or speak to your pharmacist about any special storage instructions.
- Verify the appearance of your medication before ingesting it. Do not intake medication whose colour, texture or even odour has changed.
- Shake the vial of insulin before using it. Avoid injecting it if the liquid remains cloudy even after shaking it or if there are visible deposits or flakes in the vial or cartridge.
Adhering to these tips will take just a few minutes of your time but can save you a lot of hassle.
Gauri Angrish is the founder of CORALCAREBOOK – an online and offline pharmacy that focuses on Chronic Patient Medicine Management and offers free services that help patients manage and adhere to their regular medicines. Some of these services include – automated refills, timely adherence reminders, multi-dose packaging and medical archive.
- Store medicines in a cool, dry place without direct exposure to the sunlight.
- Temperature, moisture and light cause medicines to lose their quality and efficacy
- Systematic and labelled storage is essential to avoid taking an incorrect medicine.
- In case of emergencies, efficient labelling helps others easily administer the correct medicine to you.
- Carry your prescription along with a letter from your doctor stating you have Diabetes and need syringes or injection devices and insulin. This will ease your way at security checkpoints.
- When travelling overseas, find out in advance about the applicable prescription laws.
- It is important to stick with the exact brand and formulation of insulin that you have been prescribed. So, travel with extra supplies.
- Speak to your doctor in advance and ask him/her to suggest alternative brand names with the exact formulation in case you run out of insulin and your regular brand is not available.