Last Spring, I went on a trip to Arizona. This was my second time traveling with insulin, but my first time traveling to a warmer climate. I was concerned about how to keep my insulin cool. I was also concerned with making sure I had enough sugar on me to treat low blood sugar.
Diabetes is something I have to think about every day, and when traveling, there can be new challenges.
Although I’ve had LADA diabetes for over 5 years, I’ve only needed to treat it with insulin for a few years, and I don’t travel very often, so I was nervous beforehand about how to prepare for the trip.
Keeping my insulin cool
A couple of days before my trip, I was thinking about the trip in my mind, and became concerned about how to keep my insulin at the right temperature. The insulin I use can be at room temperature while in use, but it can’t be exposed to extreme heat. The manufacturer says that is needs to stay under 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
Looking at the weather forecast, it was going to be over 86, and I realized that if the insulin was left on a warm surface, in the car, or in a bag with the sun beating down on it, that the temperature would get much hotter than 86.
I searched the internet for solutions and found a Frio Insulin Cooling Case. It got rave reviews and was supposed to work very well in dry heat. The climate in Arizona was going to be hot and dry. I ordered it on Amazon and it arrived very quickly.
I bought the “Duo” version which is supposed to hold 2 insulin pens. However, the Frio swelled up so much that I could only fit one in it. The Frio’s cooling properties come from evaporation. The case contains a special material that retains liquid and then over time it gradually evaporates, keeping the contents cool. To activate it, you have to soak it in water. The instructions specify how many minutes to soak. I suggest watching it carefully and making sure that it doesn’t soak for longer than necessary. I had problems with it swelling up and was only able to carry one insulin pen in it.
Which should have been OK because I only needed to keep my humalog with me, since the basaglar I only use once a day. So, I left my basaglar in the rental house…. Unfortunately, it got a little warmer than I would have liked because the air conditioning turned off!
Be careful, “smart” thermostats may turn off air conditioning…
In retrospect, I should have put it in the fridge. I thought it would be fine because the house was air conditioned, but the Nest thermostat automatically went into “Eco” mode during the day, and the temperature was in the 80s inside! I didn’t know this until when I got back home after being out all day sight seeing. So there’s a warning to you all — smart thermostats may turn off their air conditioning when you are not home!
Would I recommend the Frio?
So, the Frio Insulin Cooling Case only partly worked for me, mainly because it swelled up too big. I would still recommend using it in a hot, dry climate like Arizona. However, you may want to soak it for less time than recommended, or buy a bigger size than you think you will need.
I tried to use the Frio back here in this northern state I live in, and it did not work as well. Our climate is too humid. So the Frio is great for hot, dry locations, but not “hot and humid” places.
Planning for Emergencies… Bring candy. Buy juice!
I had a lot of fun! But I got nervous before going on a jeep tour in the Red Rocks because I thought “What if we break down and get stuck? What if I get low blood sugar?”
At a gift shop, in Sedona, Arizona, I bought a bottle of cranberry juice before the jeep tour, so I had like 46 grams of sugar with me, in addition to some candy already in my purse.
This was before I was using a CGM. Before the CGM, I had a lot less awareness of what was happening with my blood glucose. I would sometimes get low blood sugar, especially if exercising, or if I hadn’t eaten in awhile. (I’ve recently gotten the Freestyle Libre glucose monitor which provides much more information about what’s happening).
I was afraid that if we got stuck in the desert, I might get low blood glucose because we might have to hike or we’d be without food. Treatment of diabetes with insulin is easiest when things are “normal.” My brain was going wild, thinking of all of the possible things that could go wrong and the worst case scenarios.
I ended up not even drinking the juice. I had a great time in the desert and my insulin stayed cool. My blood sugar didn’t go low. But I was prepared!
More information about traveling with diabetes
- TSA Travel Tips: Travelers with Diabetes or other Medical Conditions – I have gone through TSA security check with various cool packs and medical supplies like syringes. I always tell the security agent right away what I have on me and why. It has never been a problem.
- Traveling through airport security with diabetes devices (with or without #OpenAPS) Love the first hand advice from Dana on this blog!
- Managing Diabetes in the Heat – Did you know that your insulin needs may change if you are in a hot environment?
- Traveling with an Insulin Pump – Advice is to disconnect it during take off and landing because pressure changes may interfere with dosage.
- Tips for Traveling With an Insulin Pump – Travel writer Cazzy provides tips for traveling! Things like altitude and timezones can make it harder!