Protect Your Insulin: Sun & Heat

Insulin, Your Pump & Heat: protect it on a hot day

So you’ve got your sunscreen, your cold drinks and your insulin pump… you’re all ready for a day at the beach, park, or pool! But what do you need to know about protecting your insulin and diabetes devices from the heat and sun? Here's some best practices to consider, plus practical how-to's.

(We also have tips for protecting your insulin and d-tech devices in the water, or on cold, winter days!)

Sun, Sun, and More Sun!

When you take along insulin for a day in the sun, whether you carry the insulin in a vial, in a pen or in a cartridge inside your child’s insulin pump, there are critical steps you should consider to keep that insulin cool, and therefore working as it was intended.

To keep insulin from getting too hot, keep in mind the following important guidelines:

  • Keep insulin vials, pens and pumps away from direct sunlight.

  • Do not leave insulin unprotected on a warm day: in a car, or in a beach bag at the lake or beach.

  • Store insulin in a cooler with an ice pack, in a wide-mouth thermos bottle with ice cubes, or in a cooling insulin wallet or device (more on both, coming up!).

  • Consider using an arm/leg band with cooling gel if your child is wearing a tubing-free, pod-based pump (such as Omnipod®).

  • Remember, your child’s pump contains insulin, so just like a vial or pen of insulin, the insulin pump should not be exposed to direct sunlight or heat. If your child disconnects her insulin pump at the beach, for example, it would be wise to store it in a well-insulated cooler (kept with you on the beach). As temperatures inside a car on a hot day can be especially high, a disconnected pump should not be left in the car. If your child stays connected to her insulin pump while outside on a hot day, a cooling pouch may be necessary to protect the insulin inside the pump; a Frio® pump case (used even while your child is wearing the pump) may be helpful in guarding against high temperatures.

  • Frio® insulin wallets are portable, re-usable storage packs and pouches which, without the need for ice packs or electronic cooling devices, keep the contents cool for 45 hours in very high temperatures (officially rated to 38°C / 100°F but there are anecdotal reports of effectiveness up to 48°C / 120°F). The cooling gel contained within a stretchy fabric covering expands when it is soaked in water; it will then stay “plump” and cool for hours without the need to re-soak; when the gel begins to dry out and return to its crystal form, another quick soak in water will re-activate the crystals, giving your child hours more of protection for her insulin (within or separate from an insulin pump).

  • Cooling gel accessories such as Frio® are valuable for any non-water activities in the sun and heat (including beach ball volleyball, picnics at the local nature park, or trips to an amusement or theme park (a hot day in the Happiest Place on Earth can wreak havoc on unprotected insulin!). But a Frio® pouch should NOT be worn into the water – when re-exposed to water, the gel could over-expand, which may cause the pouch to burst. Instead, when your child is ready for a swim, you could take the pump out of the Frio® wallet and use a regular (non-cooling) pump pouch; when he comes out of the water, simply slip his insulin pump back into the Frio® and then back into the pump belt or other pump-wearing accessory.

  • Frio® pump wallets are also useful for overnight use if your child is sleeping in a hot environment.

Tips from the Trenches

My son seems to radiate heat, especially during the summer months. We have found that placing his insulin pump in a Frio, and then tucking it into his pump belt as usual, results in far better overnight blood glucose readings during hot weather.      -Michelle

  • In very hot weather, it would be wise to change out the insulin in your child’s pump every 2 days (or more frequently, if necessary).

  • There is also a cooling device out there called a Medi-Fridge®: it can keep insulin vials consistently cool for a prolonged period of time using electricity to create cold. While a Frio® needs to be retreated with water to maintain its cooling effect, a Medi-Fridge® device doesn’t need repeated intervention to keep the contents cool – although it does require a consistent supply of electricity (via wall plug, or battery for some models) to do so. As such, it may be appropriate for travel of longer duration. (We spoke to a family who traveled in the jungle with insulin for 6 months and found the Medi-Fridge Air Traveller® very useful.)

  • You may want to investigate the properties and availability of both cooling devices – Frio® and Medi-Fridge® – to find out which is best suited to your family’s travel needs.

  • Sun, surf and snow aside, it may be wise to include a cooling pouch or device in your family’s 72-hour home emergency kit – it would be handy to have on hand if the power goes out, allowing you to protect the effectiveness of the insulin you usually store in the fridge.

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.