For those living with type 1 diabetes—and some of those with type 2—treatment can include insulin injections every single time they want to eat, which is a lot to think about at the best of times.
To add to this complexity, people who use insulin need to think carefully about how they store they it. But why?
Shape of my protein
Before explaining why you need to store your insulin at a cool and stable temperature, it's worth quickly recapping on some GCSE chemistry.
Insulin is a protein. Your body has millions of different types of them.
The shape of each type of protein is unique, giving each of them each a unique function. Change their shape and you change how they function.
Take haemoglobin, for example—the molecule that gives blood that lovely red colour. Its shape allows it to grab oxygen from the air you breath and carry it around your body.
When you eat, your stomach digests the food and your intestines absorb glucose, and other nutrients. Glucose is a vital source of energy that fuels all your bodily functions. Your body produces insulin so that it can effectively use this fuel to power your body.
So why is temperature important?
Protein structures are extremely sensitive to changes in temperature.
If they get too hot, the bonds that hold them together can break. If they get too cold, the protein’s shape can begin to unfold, permanently warping its structure.
So when storing insulin—and any medicine for that matter—extreme temperatures are bad and can stop it from working properly.
Keeping insulin in a constantly cool and stable temperature is important so that it continues to work effectively as a treatment.
Top tips for storing your insulin
It’s always a good idea to read the information leaflet that comes with your insulin, because some insulins have slightly different storage needs.
Insulin that you’re using can be kept at room temperature (under 25ºC), which also makes it more comfortable to inject.
The best place to store most types of insulin that you are not using is in the fridge. But remember extreme temperatures can damage the insulin, so don’t store it in or too close to the freezer compartment.
Diabetes UK also recommend the following tips:
Keep spare vials or cartridges of insulin in their boxes in the fridge
Check the pack for the expiry date and don’t use it if it has expired
Don’t expose insulin to sunlight or high temperatures, so no leaving it in the car on a hot day or near the cooker
For those of you who get their insulin delivered to their home, through services like Echo, you might also wonder: “how does my insulin stay cool when it’s in the post?”
How does Echo keep my insulin cool?
Medicines are transported in a carefully designed system called the “cold chain”.
The cold chain is essentially a temperature-controlled supply chain, whereby medicines are transported within the safe temperature range of 2°C to 8°C from the place of the manufacture to the pharmacy.
For insulin, Echo uses a specialised system to get it from the pharmacy to you at a stable temperature. We pack each box using Woolcool insulation, which looks like this:
Woolcool insulation is sealed in breathable film which allows the ‘smart’ wool fibres to absorb humidity and condensation. With its snugly-fitted cushions, it prevents breakages when fragile contents are in transit. Through rigorous testing, Woolcool has been independently proven to keep medicines within the safe 2°C and 8°C temperature window.
All of our insulin is kept in temperature-controlled fridges that are constantly monitored to ensure that the temperatures stay within acceptable ranges.
Your insulin is then removed for the minimum amount of time to be labelled with your details, after which it is put back in the fridge.
When it’s time to send your insulin, we package it in the Woolcool container. We then dispatch your package at the end of the day, by Royal Mail 24-hour tracked delivery, to guarantee its timely and chilled arrival.
So next time you need to stock-up, you can rest assured that Echo will keep your insulin cool.
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