Diabetes Network News | Published May 1, 2012 | Written by Amy Leffard, RN, certified diabetes educator, Mount Nittany Health Diabetes Network

What should I do if I do not have my insulin?

It is important for people with diabetes to manage it as best they can, and part of a person's diabetes management plan may be taking insulin. Many people with diabetes are prescribed insulin - a naturally occurring hormone that is secreted by the pancreas - because their bodies cannot produce insulin or do not use insulin properly.

Always be sure that you have both your required amount of insulin and extra dosage with you in case of emergency and when you travel. You can never be too prepared when it comes to your health.

If you are ever without insulin for whatever reason, check your blood glucose level, and then call your physician for advice. Typically, your physician will be able to guide you through the steps to get an additional supply of insulin. You may also be able to contact your pharmacist to simply refill your prescription for immediate pickup.

If you happen to be out of the area, your healthcare provider may be able to call in a prescription to a nearby pharmacy. Another option is that you may be able to purchase some older insulin without a prescription that may get you through until you can get your current prescription filled. Talk to you doctor about whether it is safe for you to substitute this for your current type of insulin. Different types of insulin work in different ways and will have varying effects on the body. So if you are out of your rapid-acting insulin (Novolog®/Humalog®) that you take for meals and high blood sugars, you cannot replace it with long-acting insulin (Lantus®/Levimer®).

In extreme circumstances - for instance, if your prescription has expired and you cannot get in touch with your physician - immediately go to the nearest health facility. In this instance, carrying your personal diabetes care card would prove very helpful in verifying your personal medical history and receiving assistance - which could be in the form of a new prescription, emergency supply or insulin shot.

Note that you should remember to stay calm throughout the entire ordeal. Stress raises your blood pressure and can cause your glucose level to increase as well. If you find yourself without insulin for a short period of time, eating low carbohydrate foods may keep blood glucose levels from going really high; however, the best defense is to prevent being in this situation by planning ahead.

  • Try to figure out how long your insulin will last so you can refill your prescription before you run out.
  • Make a plan with your healthcare provider about the best way to contact them for help or what action to take if this should ever occur.
  • If you will be traveling, always carry extra insulin and supplies with you such as extra syringes and pen needles.
  • Carry a copy of your prescription with all of your information on it.
  • Always carry these supplies with you in your carry-on bag when flying - never place them in checked bags due to extreme temperatures and chance of lost luggage.

Insulin is a vital part of diabetes management for many people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes .and should be taken seriously. If you are having trouble paying for your insulin, seek help from your insulin manufacturer or diabetes team before you run out

To learn more about diabetes management, contact Mount Nittany's diabetes team at 814.231.7095.