Do you have to travel with prescription medication that needs to be kept cool while on the go?

It can be difficult to get them through extreme temperatures or temperature fluctuations, but keeping your medication cold and maintaining a proper temperature is necessary if you want your medicine to last you the entire trip.

Those of us who have medical conditions that require an injectable medication or other liquid medication to be kept cool while we travel do still have options though. 

In this post, I’ll take you through how to keep medication cold while travelling – whether you’re on an epic road trip or air travelling.

Note: I am not a medical professional. This post is based on my own experience with chronic illnesses. Please seek medical advice if you yourself suffer from a chronic illness or require an official diagnosis.  

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How to keep medication cold while travelling

On the Plane or Vehicles: Use A Cooler Bag

Your most viable option is a medicine cooler bag or box, like the ones used for insulin. If you don’t have one, it would be worth investing in if you want to ensure keeping your medication cool while travelling.

In case you don’t have an insulated bag, small lunch bags with some ice cubes will tide you over just fine, but it’s still a better option to have a cooler bag.

You can make use of the fact that plenty of airports allow gel ice packs, such as the Leeds Bradford airport, as long as you keep them in your carry-on bag and you’re using them to keep infant food and liquid (that includes your medication) at a proper temperature during transport.

If you store your cooler bag with your checked luggage, it might end up freezing and ruining the medication, as the crew doesn’t make sure to keep the temperature stable. So, it’s always best to have your medication in your carry on luggage.

When travelling with medications that need to be kept in cold temperatures, make sure to find out whether they can go through the scanners at airport security. Because they need to be kept at a certain temperature, the scanners may take them above or below that number. 

If this is the case for your particular medication, get your healthcare provider to give you a letter to show security which allows your medication go through without going through the scanner.

I usually have to meet a security attendant at the other side with my doctor’s note so they can examine the pack, but it doesn’t take long. 

Once you get on the plane, ask a flight attendant if they have a fridge you can store your medication in. Some do, while others don’t. But no harm in asking. 

When You Arrive: Mini-Fridge

You’ll likely find a mini fridge in your hotel room once you arrive. I always call ahead to find out, and if there are only a few rooms with mini-fridges, you can request one.

Keep in mind, however, that some medications require a specific, consistent temperature, so make sure you set the fridge to the correct temperature.

It’s worth mentioning that some hotels require you to keep your access card inserted to keep the electricity flowing. That’s why you should clarify your medical condition and tell the staff that you need refrigerated medicine around the clock.

In that case, they’ll make accommodations for you, such as storing your medication for you instead.

Why Do Some Medicines Need An Ambient Temperature?

Plenty of prescription drugs require refrigeration, such as insulin, Mounjaro, Saxenda, Humira (which is what I take), Enbrel, eye drops, Wegovy, injections, antibiotic liquids, and even some creams.

If you go below or above the recommended temperature, the medication becomes less effective and loses potency. Unfortunately, that’s why attempting to keep them cool by using cold packs doesn’t always work.

What to Keep In Mind When Travelling on a Plane with Medication?

Generally speaking, there are a couple of things to keep in mind to ensure more accessible travel when you’re carrying medicine that requires refrigeration. 

In this section, we’ll go through these points to help you prepare.

CAA Regulations About Refrigerated Medicines

The Civil Aviation Authority, or CAA, is the entity responsible for regulating aviation safety in the UK.

When you’re at the security checkpoint, you’re going to have to declare the fact that you’re carrying medicine and talk to the officials about your case.

You also may need to separate the medicine from your personal belongings.

Check The Requirements of Other Countries

Check with your destination’s embassy as well as the embassies of countries where you’ll have a layover to make sure they permit travelling with whatever medicine you’re carrying.

Plenty of countries allow you to travel with medicine as long as the supply only lasts for a 30-day stay. Sometimes you’ll need to present a prescription or medical certification from your health provider to be able to travel with the medication.

Make sure that you check the list of the destination’s prohibited and/or restricted items to make sure you can enter the country with the medication you have on hand.

Keep Your Medicines In Their Original Packaging

It’s really important when going through the airport to keep your medicine in its original container. That’s because if your medicine isn’t in clearly labeled containers, the screening process can go a lot slower, especially with prescription medicine.

If you’ve ever had to explain all your medication at security checkpoints, you’ll know what I’m talking about! 

Keep a copy of your prescription handy also, in case asked for it. 

Don’t Pack Your Medicine In Your Checked Luggage

If your medication has refrigeration requirements, avoid packing it with your checked luggage at all costs.

Firstly, these medicines have to be declared, so packing them in your checked luggage and risking the officials finding them without a declaration isn’t a good idea.

Secondly, the conditions of the checked luggage storage spaces aren’t suitable for medicines that need refrigeration. This means that changes in humidity, temperature, or exposure to light may break down the drugs and cause them to become less effective.

Three Portable Travel Cases for Medication

I have personally used these three medication coolers for my medication while travelling and found them to be highly efficient. These are great options for keeping your medicines safe, secure and, most importantly, cold, while on the go.

The first is the 4 All Family Cooler Box. It has a biogel ice pack for keeping injections such as Insulin, Humira and EpiPens cool during travel. I found this travel cooler the best option when just carrying one injection with me. 

The next is the AUVON Portable Insulin Cooler Travel Case. Just because it says ‘Insulin’ doesn’t mean that you can’t store other medications in here. What I love about this travel bag is that it can store up to 4 injections at the same time and keep them all cool. It comes with two 160g gel packs, so it keeps your meds cooler for lengthy periods.  

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And lastly, this MEDMAX Insulin Cooler Travel Case is perfect for longer periods of travel as it holds multiple injections, accessories and other supplies. 

What Are Some Tips to Maintain Medicine Cool During Travel?

In this section, we’ll tell you some dos and don’ts of travelling with medicine to help you avoid any costly rookie mistakes.

Keep the Medicine in the Shade

One of the most important things to remember when transporting your cold medicine is to keep it in the shade and avoid direct sunlight at all costs.

Even if you won’t be long outside with your backpack, purse, or briefcase, try to keep the container of your medicine comfortable in the shade.

Monitor the Temperature with a Thermometer

As we’ve mentioned before, some medicines require keeping them at a specific temperature range to preserve their effectiveness.

That’s why using a thermometer to track any changes would allow you to salvage the situation and get your medicine back to the perfect temperature whenever there are fluctuations.

Beware of Freezing Your Medicine

If you’re going to pack a lunch bag with ice packs, make sure they aren’t in direct contact with the medicine.

While it does help to keep your storage container cool, the medicine may become too cold to give you the desired effect if you expose it to a temperature lower than its needs.

Not to mention, some medicines aren’t safe for use after they’ve been frozen, even if you give them time to return to room temperature.

What If You Can’t Refrigerate the Medicine?

Sometimes, there’s simply no access to refrigeration or a way to keep your medicine at a consistent temperature. 

Fret not, however, as there are a couple of workarounds for that.

You can opt to fill a small carry-on with some cold packs to maintain the most consistent temperature for your cold medicine.

Alternatively, you can pack some resealable sandwich bags and fill them with ice cups along the way. This option is only really viable on a road trip – you can get those from petrol stations and shops.

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FAQs

Do airplanes have refrigerators?

There are a few airlines who allow access to fridges (Emirates being one), however in general you won’t find fridges on airplanes. That’s why you have to plan how you’ll keep your medicine cool throughout your flight, according to how long it is. Make sure to account for the time you’ll spend on layovers if your flight includes those.

Why choose medical travel coolers over regular ones?

Medical travel coolers are specifically designed to maintain a consistent temperature for your medicines. They also come in different sizes and have dedicated pockets and compartments to keep your medicine organized and safe.

Conclusion: How to Keep Medication Cold While Travelling

​So, if you’re planning to travel with medication that needs to be kept at a safe temperature, I recommend investing in a good medical travel cooler.

Make sure it has all the features you need for your travels and regularly check its temperature.

With the right preparation, you can rest assured that your medication will stay safely chilled during your trip.

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