Traveling with diabetes is no problem, but it requires a bit of pre-planning, especially if you’re traveling with insulin. Insulin is a temperature-sensitive medicine that needs to be protected from the heat at all times.
I have traveled all around the globe with sometimes up to 60 insulin pens at once in my luggage. Trust me; I have had many bad and good experiences keeping insulin cool while traveling. Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, if you’re on insulin, I’m sharing my best tips to keep your insulin cool in all situations.
Insulin is a temperature-sensitive medicine that needs to be protected from extreme temperatures. Your in-use available insulin vials or pens can be unrefrigerated for a month and stay at room temperature but cannot be exposed to extreme temperatures.
You must protect your insulin against high heat during day trips and short-term travels, using an insulin cooler if necessary.
Insulin should never be exposed to temperatures over 25°C / 77°F. Whether traveling to a hot weather destination or spending time outside during summer, you need to protect your insulin from the heat.
It’s good practice always to 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 wrong and lose its efficiency, causing sugar spikes and uncontrollable glucose readings.
Insulin coolers, cooling cases, bags, and pouches are valuable accessories for people with diabetes to keep their insulin cool. There are dozens of products available for every style, need, 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 ten best insulin coolers for people with diabetes. I’m sure you’ll find something for yourself there.
Insulin can freeze if exposed to frigid temperatures. Frozen insulin is good for trash! Traveling to extremely cold weather destinations, you’ll have to protect your insulin against the cold.
I’m referring to extreme cold here! 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 in freezing weather, 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!
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 people with diabetes traveling with insulin long-term for more than a month. You’ll need a high-performance insulin travel cooler to keep your insulin at fridge temperature.
People with diabetes who travel with stocks of insulin for more than a month need to find a solution to keep their insulin at fridge temperature at all times. I’ve traveled all around the world for years with sometimes more than 60 pens of insulin in my luggage. The best way to be sure your stock of insulin stays safe and relaxed is to use a high-performance insulin travel cooling system 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 and more high-performance insulin more excellent choices.
Here are different scenarios where you might ask yourself how to keep your insulin cool.
When traveling, we people with diabetes 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-day hike in the sunny mountains, planning to spend a lazy day on the beach, or have a long travel to your destination, you need to find ways to protect your insulin from the heat for several hours, sometimes even several days.
That’s what insulin cooling cases are made for! I’ve written a complete buyer’s guide to finding the insulin cooler that would best suit your own needs.
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 temperatures, 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!
You can take an insulin cooler with you on the plane. Almost 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 your 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.
To go through airport security checks with all of your diabetic supplies, ask your doctors to fill out your diabetes travel letter.
Camping is another scenario where people with diabetes must find ways to keep insulin cool without electricity or a fridge. Numerous insulin coolers are made to be used without electricity and are ideal for camping and outdoor trips.
When planning a camping trip with diabetes, get a waterproof insulin cooler, and don’t forget to pack plenty of hypo snacks and glucose tabs.
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 gets too hot in there. If you’re using an insulin pump, Frio also makes cooling covers for insulin pumps!
Insulin is a temperature-sensitive medicine manufactured to be identical to the insulin produced by our human pancreas. Just like humans, synthetic insulins we buy don’t like temperature variations and exceptionally high temperatures.
Insulin is a protein, and like any other protein, it can spoil. Keeping it cold helps to prevent it from damaging and getting contaminated by bacteria. Exposure to high temperatures makes your insulin break. It considerably impacts 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 wrong.
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 before it risks going bad. All you have to do is protect your in-use available 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.
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.
You can put insulin that has reached room temperature back into the fridge. It won’t impact its efficiency and might help keep it working longer. However, the cold chain has been broken, so you’ll need to use that insulin within a month.
Yes. Insulin can freeze. Frozen insulin is not usable anymore. Throw it away.
Here are a few more articles about traveling with diabetes that might interest you: