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How to Keep Insulin Cool While Traveling without Electricity!

Traveling with diabetes is no problem at all but it does require a bit of preplanning, especially if you’re traveling with insulin. Insulin is a temperature-sensitive medicine that needs to be protected from heat at all times. 

I have travelled all around the globe with sometimes up to 60 insulin pens at once in my luggage. Trust me, I have quite a lot both bad and good experiences about keeping insulin cool while traveling. Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, if you’re on insulin, I’m sharing here with you my best tips to keep your insulin cool in all kinds of situations. 

Keep insulin cool while traveling

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How to Keep Insulin Cool: Day-trips and Short-term Travels

Insulin is a temperature-sensitive medicine that needs to be protected from extreme temperatures. Your in-use open insulin vials or pens can be unrefrigerated during a month and stay at room temperature but cannot be exposed to extreme temperatures

During day-trips and short-term travels, you need to protect your insulin against high heat, using an insulin cooler if necessary. 

Protect Insulin Against High Heat and Sunlight

Insulin should never be exposed to temperatures over 25°C / 77°F. Whether you’re traveling to a hot weather destination, or you’re spending time outside during summer, you need to protect your insulin from the heat.

It’s good practice to always keep your insulin in the shade too. Use common sense and avoid leaving your insulin in the car on a sunny day, in your leather bag on the sunny beach, or placing it near the cooker…

If exposed to high temperatures and direct sunlight, insulin can go bad and loose its efficiency, causing sugar spikes and uncontrollable glucose readings.

Use Insulin Travel Cases and Coolers

Insulin coolers, cooling cases, bags and pouches, are useful accessories specially designed for diabetics to keep their insulin cool. There are dozens of products available for every style, needs and budget. 

When traveling with insulin for less than a month or during summer day trips, cooling bags such as the famous Frio bags or the high-performing 4AllFamily cooler, will perfectly do the job and protect your insulin vials or insulin pens against outside heat.

Over the years I’ve built up a buyer’s guide and a list of the 10 best insulin coolers for diabetics. I’m sure you’ll find something for you in there. 

FRIO Insulin Cooling Cases
Most Popular Cooling bags for Insulin

Protect Insulin Against Extreme Cold Too!

Insulin can freeze if exposed to extremely cold temperatures. Frozen insulin is good for trash! If you’re traveling to extremely cold weather destinations, you’ll have to protect your insulin against the cold. 

I’m referring to extreme cold here! It means if it is constantly under 0°C / 32°F, don’t leave your insulin outside all day and night. Keep your insulin inside the house at room temperature. If you go outside by extremely cold weather, simply keep your insulin close to your body, in the interior pocket of your jacket for example. Your body warmth will do the job and prevent your insulin from freezing!

How to Keep Insulin Cool While Long-Term Traveling

Insulin Storage Rules

The general rule most drug manufacturers agree on is that insulin that is not in use, whether it’s contained in pens, vials or cartridges, should be stored in your refrigerator (between 2°C and 8°C / between 35.6°F and 46.4°F). Insulin can only  stay unrefrigerated for the maximum duration of a month.

That causes some difficulties for diabetics that are long-term traveling with insulin for more than a month. You’ll need to get a high-performance insulin travel cooler that can keep your insulin at fridge temperature. 

High-Performance Insulin Travel Coolers for Fridge Temperature

Diabetics who travel with stocks of insulin during more than a month need to find a solution to keep their insulin at fridge temperature at all time. I’ve travelled all around the world for years with sometimes more than 60 pens of insulin in my luggages. The best way to be sure your stock of insulin stays safe and cool is to use a high-performance insulin travel cooling system that is capable of keeping your insulin vials or pens at fridge temperature for a long time. 

The best product on the market in 2021 is without any doubt the following 4AllFamily 72 hours USB insulin cooler. Check out its full product review, as well as more high-performance insulin cooler choices.

4AllFamily 72 hours USB insulin cooler
#1 Best Insulin Cooler in 2021

Keeping Insulin Cool and Safe in Various Situations

Here are different scenarios where you might ask yourself how to keep your insulin cool. 

How to keep insulin cool without a fridge?

When traveling we diabetics often find ourselves in situations where we don’t have access to a fridge to keep our insulin cold. Whether you’re departing for a 3-days hike in the sunny mountains, planning to spend a lazy day on the beach, or simply have a long travel to your destination, you need to find ways to protect your insulin from the heat during several hours and sometimes even several days. 

That’s what insulin cooling cases are made for! I’ve written a full buyer’s guide to finding the insulin cooler that would best suit your own needs. 

How to keep insulin cool without electricity?

Again, as diabetics we often find ourselves in situations where we don’t have access to electricity to keep our insulin in the fridge. Whether you’re spending the day outside under high summer temperature, going on a road trip with your family, or taking a 12-hours plane, you need to keep your insulin cold without electricity. And again, the only way to do so is using an insulin cooler

How to keep insulin cool on the plane?

You can take an insulin cooler with you on the plane. Pretty much all of the best insulin coolers are TSA-approved so you can go through airport security with them. 

When flying with insulin, take all of your insulin vials or pens in you carry-on on the plane with you. Due to air travel pressure and hazardous temperature conditions, your insulin could suffer when traveling in your checked baggage.

In order to go through airport security checks with all of your diabetic supplies, ask your doctors to fill out your diabetes travel letter

How to keep insulin cool while camping?

Camping is another scenario where diabetics need to find ways to keep insulin cool without electricity or fridge. There are numerous insulin coolers that are made to be used without electricity and are ideal for camping and outdoor trips. 

When planning a camping trip with diabetes, get an insulin cooler that’s waterproof and don’t forget to pack plenty of hypo snacks and glucose tabs.

How to keep insulin cool at the beach?

When going to the beach with diabetes, don’t forget to keep your insulin in a cooler or in your lunch bag to protect it from the heat. You’ll need to keep it protected from the sunlight too, so it’s a good idea to find some shade if possible. In any case, never leave your insulin in the car as it get too hot in there. If you’re using an insulin pump, Frio also makes cooling covers for insulin pump

Keeping Insulin Cool: Frequently Asked Questions

Why does insulin need to stay cool?

Insulin is a temperature-sensitive medicine that is manufactured to be identical to the insulin produced by our human pancreas. Just like the human one, the synthetic insulins that we buy don’t like temperature variations and especially high temperatures. 

Insulin is a protein and like any other protein, it can spoil. Keeping it cold helps to prevent it from spoiling and getting contaminated by bacteria. Exposure to high temperature make your insulin spoil. It has considerable impacts on your insulin’s efficiency, sometimes reducing it to the point that it just won’t work anymore. 

Using insulin that has gone bad can be dangerous. In this article, I explain how to tell if you’re insulin has gone bad

Do I always need to refrigerate insulin when traveling?

It depends. If you’re traveling with insulin for less than a month, you do not need to refrigerate your insulin. Insulin can stay unrefrigerated for about a month of time before it risks going bad. All you have to do is protecting your in-use open insulin pens and insulin vials against high heat so they stay at room temperatures at all times (not over  25°C / 77°F). If you’re traveling to a hot weather destination, or if you stay outside in summer times, get an insulin travel cooler to be sure your insulin is safe. 

If you’re traveling with insulin for more than a month, you need to find an insulin cooler that is performant enough to keep your stocks of insulin at fridge temperature. 

How long can insulin stay unrefrigerated?

All insulin manufacturers agree that insulin can stay unrefrigerated for a maximum duration of a month. After that time, it starts loosing its efficiency. Unopened insulin pens and vials need to be stored in the fridge, while your in-use open ones can stay at room temperature for a month and only need to be protected in case of high heat.

Always check on your insulin’s notice paper what storage rules are recommended by the manufacturers. There may have some differences from one brand to the other. 

Can you put insulin back into the fridge?

You can put insulin that has reached room temperature back into the fridge. It won’t impact its efficiency and might even help keep it working longer. However, the cold chain has been broken, so you’ll need to use that insulin within a month maximum. 

Can insulin be too cold?

Yes. Insulin can freeze. Frozen insulin is not usable anymore. Throw it away. 

Traveling with Insulin and Diabetic Supplies

Here are a few more articles about traveling with diabetes that might interest you: 

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About the author

Laura Pandolfi diabetes blogger

I’m Laura. Type 1 diabetic. Mother. Traveler. Writer. Researcher. I started this blog 5 years ago to investigate diabetes-related topics and share different views on the subject. I hope you find it useful!

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