Travelling with Insulin

Information on storing and transporting your insulin.



Insulin and blood sugar testing equipment can be affected by temperature and humidity. Before you walk across Death Valley or Antarctica read on... 


  • Carry plenty - to be on the safe side ideally double what you think you need!
  • If you are travelling for a long time, you may need to get supplies when away.
  • Remember your usual daily amounts may change - the type of food, lack or increase in exercise, change in temperature can all affect your blood sugar control.
  • Find out the availability of insulin where you are going. Different countries often have different names and strengths and may not use insulin pens- Take with you contact phone numbers for suppliers in some main cities you plan to visit.
  • If your type of insulin is not available, discuss with the company and they can often arrange for a supply to be sent to a certain chemist / collection point.
  • If you are travelling for a while and are not based anywhere with use of a refrigerator, you may need to get a new supply when away.

Insulin strength 

Most countries now use U-100 strength insulin, but you may come across U-40 and 80 strengths. If you are unable to get U100 and need to use another strength of insulin you need different syringes to match the insulin strength, otherwise you will take the wrong insulin dose. (If you use U-100 syringes with U-40/80 insulin you will take take much less insulin, or if you use U-100 insulin with U-40/80 syringe you will take much more insulin. 


Extremes of temperature may cause your insulin to be less effective.

  • Some research reports suggest that insulin can be kept at 25 C for up to 10 months loosing 5% effectiveness and at 40 C for several weeks but many Insulin manufacturers can only guarantee stability of insulin kept out of the fridge at normal room temperature (25 C) for one month, and recommend it should not be used after this.
  • The stability of insulin at different temperatures varies depending on the type. Inactivity occurs more rapidly with bright light than in the dark.
  • Store insulin in a refrigerator in hot climates where possible to prevent it losing effectiveness.
  • Do not expose to direct sunlight/heat e.g.. car glove compartments, by a fire or radiator, near a window.

Transporting & Storing 

  • When travelling by plane, insulin should not be kept in luggage going into the hold of the plane, as often temperatures drop below freezing and there may be pressure changes
  • For carrying, cool bags/boxes or polystyrene containers can be used. Pre-cooled wide necked vacuum flasks are also useful.
  • If you use a container with frozen plastic blocks, make sure the insulin is not directly beside them as it may freeze.
  • If you are keeping insulin in a backpack, make sure its not unprotected either in the top pocket or near the outside of the pack where sun can beat down on it.
  • Frio insulin travel wallets are light and compact. Refrigeration is not needed as they are activated by cold water. For further information contact: 01437 741700 Or visit
  • For storage, if a refrigerator is not available, keep in the coolest, dark part of the room. If warm cover with a cold wet cloth.

Damaged insulin 

Check the appearance of the insulin before you use it.The following may suggest that if has ‘gone off’

  • Soluble (clear insulin, quick acting) may look cloudy or turbid,
  • Suspension or cloudy insulins may have lumps or clumps that do not disperse when gently mixed,
  • The bottle/vial may have a frosted appearance with particles sticking to the sides. It may also look a brownish colour.

Blood glucose monitoring equipment 

  • Take a spare battery.
  • Find out the availability and local name of test strips in some cities you plan to go to.
  • If you are travelling for a while, it may be worth taking a spare meter with you.

Heat & Humidity 

  • Glucose meters and test strips can be affected by extreme temperatures and humidity - check the manual before you go. Meters generally perform best within temperatures of 15-35C.
  • Some test strips will give a false high result in hot weather, and a false low in cold weather.
  • Companies recommend when using in extreme temperatures to perform quality control checks using glucose solution to ensure the meter is reading accurately. Small vials of either high, medium or low solution can be obtained from the company. However, once opened, they expire within 3 months.
  • Blood sugar can be measured millimoles per litre (mmol/l) or milligrams per 100 millilitres (mg%).
  • Check that the strips will not expire while your away.
  • It may be useful to pack urine testing strips. Urine can be dipsticked for glucose and if you have type 1 diabetes ketones. Some blood glucose meters monitor blood ketones as well. Discuss this with your Diabetes Specialist Nurse. Also look up Sick Days Rules for type 1 or type 2 diabetes. 

Pens & Syringes 

  • If you need a supply of insulin syringes when away, make sure they are the correct ones for your insulin strength. Some countries still use U40 and 80 insulin.
  • Some countries don't use pens - if you have never used syringes it may be worth learning how to do so if you will be spending time in these areas.
  • Before leaving, enquire about the availability of pen needles and the length you use. Some areas may just have 12.7mm length. Needle length can make a difference to how quickly your insulin acts. Contact the company before leaving if you're travelling for while as you may need to buy some on route.

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