Protect Your Insulin: Snow & Cold

Insulin, Your Pump & Snow: protect it on a cold, wintery day

So you’ve got your skis, skates, or toboggan... and your insulin pump. You’re all ready for a day on the slopes or rink, sledding, or building a snowman! But to keep your medical devices functioning and your insulin from freezing, first take in these tips on protecting them before you venture out into the snow and cold on a beautiful winter day.

(We also have tips for dealing with Sun and Surf!)

Hurray…. Snow!

Here in Canada we’re familiar with the Rrrrr! Rrrrr! Rrrrrrrrr! of a frozen car battery that won’t catch… think of the smaller version in your blood glucose monitor, insulin pump, or Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) and you can imagine the problem – cold batteries don’t function well, in your car and in your medical device.

Additionally, safe storage of insulin of any kind depends on preventing it from freezing – if frozen, it becomes useless and must be discarded, as thawing it doesn’t return it to its previous effectiveness.

So what can you do when you want to spend hours building the perfect snowman? Here are some possibilities:

  • Just as it protects against high temperatures, Frio® pouches also protects that back-up insulin from freezing. We know of one Frio-user who slept overnight on the ice (in -20C temperatures) in Antarctica and had no problems with the insulin in their Frio® freezing. (Can I just say... wow!)

  • Try slipping a hand warmer packet inside your blood glucose monitor case to keep battery from freezing. It may also help to turn the monitor itself upside-down (i.e. battery-side-up) inside the case, so the battery is closest to the hand warmer.

    You may find a foot warmer more convenient than a hand-warmer, as it’s flatter and has a sticky backing to keep the warmer in place.

  • Plan what you will carry with you, and which supplies are best left back in the lodge or camp. In addition to sufficient low treatment, it is wise to carry with you (or your child) at a minimum: a blood glucose monitor, and insulin pump.. You may choose to leave a back-up supply of insulin, and insulin pens/syringes in a locker or pack at the lodge at the bottom of the ski hill or inside a camp house.

Tips from the Trenches

When we go skiing, my son wears his pump next to his body, under his ski outerwear, relying on body heat to keep the insulin and battery inside the pump at a safe, functional temperature. He carries his blood glucose monitor in an outside pocket with a hand-warmer in the case (as described above). We always leave a back-up vial of insulin and syringes down in the lodge, in a Frio pouch inside a backpack. When transporting the backpack to or from the lodge at the beginning or end of the day, the Frio prevents the insulin from freezing. If we forget the Frio at home, he carries the insulin in an inside pocket of his coat rather than in the backpack until we get to some place warm. Since using these guidelines, we have had no problems keeping his pump, monitor, and insulin functioning, even in very cold weather.


More on Insulin Storage (with or without a pump):

More on protecting your d-stuff from the elements:

The above information was adapted with permission from The Alberta Children’s Hospital Diabetes Clinic information handouts.

The above information was reviewed for content accuracy by clinical staff of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Diabetes Clinic.