Today, we're talking cool packs, with a chance to win one of your own! Be sure to read through to the Giveaway at the end of this post.
Growing up in the mild climate of Oregon, I was raised to despise excessive heat. But you know what hates heat more than me? Insulin.
Insulin is a fragile substance that does not do well in extreme hot or cold temperatures, and it's never more evident than in the sweltering heat of the summer months. Whether you're lounging at the beach, trekking through European towns, or just running errands, there's never a better time to think about the life of your insulin.
Insulin + Heat: What Happens?
The nitty-gritty of insulin science: it's a big protein that has the potential of breaking down into smaller proteins when exposed to heat. That basically leads to ineffectiveness (see high blood sugars!).
Industry expert Charles Fraser, Senior Director of Medical Information Services at Sanofi, explained in a phone interview that the breakdown of insulin varies depending on the temperature to which the insulin was exposed and for how long, and we need to be particularly cautious about exposing insulin to temperatures over 86 degrees for any length of time. How long and how hot is risky?
"If you went directly home from the pharmacy, within that short period of time the stability is not going to be impacted," Fraser said. "If you put the insulin in your car on a hot day and then went shopping, and the car was 135 degrees inside, and the insulin was in there for two hours? It is conceivable that insulin is already breaking down."
But how can you tell if your insulin is going bad? You know, short of the sudden skyrocketing BGs? You might notice that your otherwise clear insulin is starting to look a little cloudy. Fraser says sometimes you can even see the crystals starting to form in the vial.
Since it's sort of a mystery exactly how quickly your insulin will degrade, it's better to be safe than sorry! And the safe route is to keep your vials, pens or pump nice and cool as much as possible.
So, how do you do that?
Cool Packs Go Hi-Tech
Traditionally PWDs used ice or other water-related cold packs to keep their insulin cool when outside or away from a refrigerator. And for that choice, there's a new company on the scene that is taking insulin protection to a whole new level.
Texas-based Kewl Innovations is fittingly named. It's sole product, the ClimaPak, is dedicated to keeping insulin cool — or warm, depending on the situation. The ClimaPak is a small, battery-powered device that continuously monitors the environment to keep your insulin at the proper temperature. It's a snazzy little contraption that holds two insulin pens, two insulin bottles, or one of each. It seems like a great solution, especially for outdoor adventurers who need to keep their insulin protected year-round.
In a conversation with Shayne O'Sullivan, Kewl Innovation's Community Engagement Specialist (read: social media person), I learned that the company's founder, Mike Wilkinson, has a personal D-connection: he has type 2 diabetes. After being diagnosed, Mike noticed he had difficulty keeping his insulin cool while traveling. He was tired of the hassle of cold packs and requesting hotel rooms with fridges. Having worked in the healthcare and tech industries for 30 years, Mike decided to do something about it and went to work creating the ClimaPak.
In our email exchange, O'Sullivan writes, "We've all heard horror stories about folks who end up injecting useless insulin after being outside in the hot sun all day, or people who end up freezing their insulin from leaving it on ice for too long. ClimaPak keeps insulin at the right temperature, with no messes or extra steps to plan (who likes packing coolers, or running by the store to buy ice!)."
Another fun feature is their programmable alarms and last-injection timers, showing when you last took your shot. Similar to the pen-cap-with-timer product Timesulin, the ClimaPak will eliminate the "Did I take my shot?" quandary faced by many folks who take multiple daily injections.
Sounds pretty kewl, huh? Especially since this product is useful for keeping your insulin safe in icy winter situations, too. The downsides?
First, they brag about it being portable and lightweight, but let's face it: this is yet another bulky thing to be carrying around. ClimaPak is 6.7 inches tall, 4.78 inches wide, and 2.78 inches across and it weighs 22oz, which O'Sullivan points out is less than an iPad. But from contextual photos, it appears to be about the size of a small, portable hair drier, and very space-age looking. (Loads of fun at airport screenings, to be sure.)
And then there's the price tag. At a whopping $199.99, my first thought was Ouch! It would be handy to have, but only if I had extra money to burn! The device also requires regular charging. Although you can juice it up using a wall or car charger, the rechargeable battery only lasts 3-5 days. Not such a good option if you're hiking in the Himalayas. But if you are going on a long-distance trip away from an electrical outlet, you can purchase an extra battery pack for $60.
Tried-and-True to Keep It Cool
For those who bristle at paying that much for a cooler, there are much more affordable options. FRIO cases have long been a go-to resource for PWDs to keep their insulin just right. They are extremely convenient to use and affordable to boot.
All you have to do is soak the soft FRIO case in cool water for about five minutes, and the specialized gel inside becomes enlarged and forms a perfect temperature barrier for the contents of the case. They don't require any refrigeration and won't need another soak in water for at least a week. FRIO cases look like big envelopes, and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors for everything from your insulin bottles and pens to a special "wallet" case for your insulin pump! They are very easy to pack in a suitcase or backpack, i.e. not the least bit bulky.
FRIO cases are also very affordable, ranging between $20 and $40.
Keeping your insulin cool — and in the winter months, safe from freezing — is very important in protecting the stability and effectiveness of this critical medicine, which in turn helps keep you healthy.
If you have another product or option that you use to keep your insulin safe, we'd love to hear about it!
A DMProducts Giveaway
Enticed by the products we just shared? Want one of your own? We're giving away one ClimaPak and two Frio cases (your choice of size and color) to three lucky winners!
As always, entering for your chance to win is as easy as leaving a comment.
Here's what to do:
1. Post your comment below and include the codeword "DMProducts" somewhere in the comment (beginning, end, in parenthesis, in bold, whatever). That will let us know that you would like to be entered in the giveaway. You can still leave a comment without entering, but if you want to be considered to win the contest, please remember to include "DMProducts."
2. This week, you have until Friday, July 27, at 5 p.m. PST to enter. A valid email address is required to win.
3. The winner will be chosen using Random.org.
This contest is open to anyone in the world who is in need of a little cooling. Best of luck!