Top tips to store medications in your fridge

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Normally, we don’t put too much thought into where medications should be stored in the fridge and why. We just throw them in and assume we’ve taken care of the job.

But, when medication labels say ‘refrigerator’, they refer to an ideal fridge which consistently keeps a certain temperature range. More precisely, they should be stored between 36–46°F / 2–8°C, which in reality is not always the case.

To get an idea where fridges usually fall short, look at consumer advocacy groups out there, like Australia’s CHOICE. They test fridges using the following criteria: temperature range score, fluctuation score, uniformity score, and ambient change score. The latter is especially important for countries with extreme seasonal changes! Also, refrigerators have warmer and colder zones. Maybe you remember that specific food should be stored in a special place in your fridge? That’s because you subconsciously know certain areas will almost freeze the food, while others will keep it at much warmer temperature, like the butter compartment.

Millions of people every single day rely on their critical medications: insulin, biologics, hormones, etc… Something as simple as placing it in the wrong part of the fridge can impair its inherent medical properties, creating a dangerous situation. You don’t even need to think of a worst case scenario, where your medication might freeze and lose it’s effectiveness. When you keep medication stocks in your fridge for weeks or months, why not try to get it right?

Check out our 4 pro tips for keeping medication properly cooled in a refrigerator setting.

Keep it in the center: The butter compartment on the fridge door is super practical for keeping smaller items, like your insulin cartridges. However, it is usually the warmest place in a refrigerator and is often a few degrees above 46°F / 8°C. This can make a big difference if medications are stored for a longer period of time! On the other hand, keeping the medication package pushed against the back corner of the fridge puts them at the risk of freezing.

Warmer and colder zones in a household fridge, as shown in this report: https://www.cnet.com/news/understand-your-fridge/ picture by Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Keep in mind:
Warmest: door compartments, top shelf, vegetable drawers
Coldest: lowest shelf, back and side walls of refrigerator (risk of freezing!)

2. Airtight container: keep the medications in their packaging and consider an airtight container to protect from fluctuations. The fridge actively cools in cycles, so there’s a constant up and down inside.

Temperature in your fridge fluctuates in cooling cycles: Although our average temperature was 3.5–4°C in the office fridge, which sounds perfect, in reality it dropped well below 2°C every 3 hours .

Depending on the quality of your fridge, the min and max of every few hours can differ dramatically (+- 10°F/6°C), even when the door is always closed. See for example our office fridge during 24 hours in the weekend. Opening the door for one minute leads to a rapid rise in temperature inside the fridge as well.

3. Safe during the year: Keep an eye on the fridge through seasonal changes! You might have to adjust something. Be extra careful when it’s warm and humid outside. Opening the fridge during a hot summer day can have a considerable effect on the cooling cycle within.

4. The other fridge: If you have more than one fridge: store your meds in the one that’s less frequently opened/closed. The less fluctuations, the better!

With proper care and awareness, it is definitely possible to store meds in a safe and practical way. The next time you’re heading back from the pharmacy, take special care to slow down and consider where exactly you are placing them in the refrigerator.

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Amin Zayani
Apr 5, 2017
Amin Zayani
CEO and co-founder of MedAngel, solar energy engineer turned digital health entrepreneur by accident.
@AminfiBerlin

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