Keeping Diabetes Supplies Cool in the Summer Heat

As you attempt to stay cool and dry this summer, remember to do the same for your diabetes supplies.

Extreme temperatures or humidity can affect the performance of blood sugar testing tools, medications and insulin pumps.

Three Reminders

Follow these guidelines to protect your diabetes supplies in the heat:

  1. Do not store insulin, diabetes pills, test strips or glucose meters in the car during hot months or in direct sunlight. High heat can quickly degrade insulin. Prolonged heat or humidity may strip pill medications of their potency. Both moisture and high temps will affect the accuracy of glucose test strips and meters – always close the cap on test strip containers tightly.
  2. Insulin pumps have natural heat protection from their housing unit. However, if traveling where temperatures are very high, such as desert country, consider using a protective pouch with a gel-based cooling pack. If exposed to direct sunlight, cover the pump with a towel.
  3. If traveling by plane, your insulin will be fine without additional cooling when kept in your carry-on luggage. If the destination is a hot climate or you will be enjoying a long hot train, car or bus ride, consider extra cooling gear for your supplies.

Two Ways to Keep Supplies Cool

There are many diabetic traveling kits available to keep supplies organized and cool. Two that are frequently recommended by travel experts are portable refrigeration units and water-cooled insulin wallets or pouches.

Portable refrigeration coolers weigh just over a pound and run on AC domestic power or a DC power cord. They are about the size of an average shoe box and keep supplies at a consistently cool temperature.

The most convenient and environmentally friendly way to cool insulin seems to be a cooling wallet or pouch that is activated by water. It requires no refrigeration or ice packs because:

  1. The wallet’s cooling function is triggered by immersing the case in cold water for up to 15 minutes.
  2. The water is absorbed by crystals sewn into the wallet’s panels.
  3. As the water evaporates from the crystals, insulin supplies are cooled.
  4. Supplies are kept safe for a minimum of 45 hours, even in a continuous temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius).

These water-cooled cases can also be used during the winter to protect insulin from extreme cold. They are durable, re-usable and affordable.

Insulin Pumps: Keeping the Skin Dry

The most common problem with insulin pumps during summer is sweating. Excess skin moisture loosens the adhesive holding infusion sets in place.

One low-cost trick is to clean and dry the infusion site and then apply a solid or spray antiperspirant. Wait 10 minutes to let the antiperspirant dry before applying the set. Avoid using gels or creams, and consider using an unscented product as they are less irritating.

Another option is to clean the infusion site with an alcohol pad or an IV prep wipe and let the area dry. Then, either make the infusion area stickier by applying an adhesive skin-prep product before putting the set in place or add extra adhesive after placing the set.

There is also a flexible tape available that adheres to the skin and attaches to the infusion set’s adhesive pad. Whatever method you use to keep an infusion site sticky, keep tabs on how the skin at the site reacts as some products may be irritating.

Sources: Diabetes Self Mgmt; Top Travel Tips; Diabetes Forecast
Photo credit: Julien Haler (@flickr)

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