How to get something that needs refrigeration from Point A to Point B?
November 5, 2010 9:06 AM   Subscribe

How does one ship something that needs to be refrigerated?

We're moving across the country. My dog has a long list of health issues (but thankfully we're flying the animals via Pet Airways.)

Anyway, he has a medication that needs to be refrigerated. It is too expensive to just toss the old bottle and order a new one to the new house. Since he isn't flying with us, we can't (I assume) try to argue that it is medically required.

My ideas so far:

- Somehow pack it (dry ice?) in our luggage, which will be in transit for about ~7 hours, as long as it doesn't get lost. (But how do we do this?)
- Ship it overnight in some sort of special box to our friends' house in new location and pick it up there. (But how do we do this?)

We also have other things that aren't cheap that require refrigeration like fish oil. If we pack it in our luggage, I'd imagine that we could toss those in there too, right?

Ideas please! Thank you.
posted by k8t to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Fedex has guidelines. For refrigerated items, they suggest a styrofoam cooler inside the shipping box, with frozen gel packs as the coolant.
posted by smackfu at 9:13 AM on November 5, 2010

My job involves frequent arrivals of frozen foods. We just got yogurt smoothies kept at a low temperature, then packaged with ice packs inside a small styrofoam cooler. That was taped shut and placed within a large cardboard box, and shipped overnight to us.

We get stuff like this all the time, including frozen foods, and it's usually either dry ice, gel ice packs, styrofoam coolers, or a combination of the above. But if the medication needs to be refrigerated and not frozen, I'd recommend the cooler and gel ice packs and overnight shipping.

There are also insulated grocery bags sold at places like Whole Foods that will keep foods hot or cold for up to 3 hours. I recently transported ice cream for over two hours in one of them and it got home frozen.

Toss some gel cold packs in the bag if your flight is short enough. If it's longer, then maybe try a bunch of frozen gel packs in the bag and seal it in styrofoam in your luggage. The luggage space in planes tends to be cold, by the way.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:14 AM on November 5, 2010

Back in my days as a produce clerk at a neighborhood store, we would have (lots and lots) of Russian and Romanian families come into our store to pack up coolers full of fresh fruit and ship it up to other family members in Alaska. It honestly got to be routine to help them pack up their coolers and seal them with ice packs. Dry ice was a not typical, but the little chemical gel packs were quite popular from what i remember.

I would hit up your nearest FedEx purveyor and first-overnight the items. As long as you're not crossing any international borders, you should be just fine.

A quick google search yeilded these buddies, who use Fedex.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:14 AM on November 5, 2010

Don't use dry ice. It will freeze the medicine (assuming it's a liquid), and even if it doesn't.. carbon dioxide expands as it sublimates (turns from a solid straight into a gas) and you could blow open your package if you seal it too tightly.

1. Get a insulated lunch bag
2. Buy several gel packs
3. Wrap medicine in bubble wrap if it's in a glass container
4. Place gel packs around wrapped medicine
5. Put in lunch bag
6. Put in your carry on.
posted by royalsong at 9:15 AM on November 5, 2010

Yeah dry ice is good for frozen items, but too cold for refrigerated. Small styrofoam cooler, plus gel ice packs, plus insulating material (i.e. newspaper) to fill in all the air gaps. Put the styrofoam container into a cardboard box and either overnight it, or put it in your luggage.
posted by Joh at 9:31 AM on November 5, 2010

Gel packs might not be allowed in carry-on luggage, what with them being gel and over 3 oz, and the TSA having dumb and opaque rules about that.

But you could pack it as royalsong suggests, but put it in a box or piece of luggage to be checked. I'd probably ship it overnight via FedEx or UPS, though.
posted by rtha at 9:49 AM on November 5, 2010

Response by poster: I think that I'll do what RoyalSong suggests, but in my luggage.
posted by k8t at 9:53 AM on November 5, 2010

Have you contacted Pet Airways to ask them if they can take the medication and keep it in a fridge during the dog's journey? I have no idea if they can, but it might be worth asking.
posted by brainmouse at 9:55 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Talk to your vet. They presumably get refrigerated medication shipments all the time, and this is your dog's medication you need to ship. They may even have a spare shipping cooler (or twelve) and some of the gel used to ship the meds in the first place, which might be refreezable/reusable.

If they don't have anything on hand, go talk to feed stores. They keep vaccines etc for sale and may have some of the shipping coolers/gel packs available. (I know I never have another use for shipping coolers once they get to me, but someone who gets a lot of them may find a way to reuse them or send them back to the dealer for a deposit, or something.)
posted by galadriel at 9:58 AM on November 5, 2010

Oh, and I usually get my vaccines-that-require-refrigeration by 2nd day air, so if you decide not to risk bringing the meds with you on the plane, you certainly can just overnight them. I get my vaccines in their cooler, inside a cardboard box for shipping.
posted by galadriel at 10:01 AM on November 5, 2010

Ah okay. I didn't consider that there would be rules or regulations for something like that.

I was trying to bypass the concern about your luggage getting lost/taking forever to get to you.

I hope you and your puppy (they're all puppies.. even if they're fully grown) have a safe journey!
posted by royalsong at 10:02 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ask your vet if ~7 hours at ambient temperature would actually be a problem. If not, just put the bottle in your checked luggage and refrigerate it as soon as you get home.

As a biochemist I've worked with lots of stuff that needs to be refrigerated for long-term storage, but it's fine for a few hours at room temperature. In fact, one of our suppliers routinely FedExed pricey monoclonal antibodies (protein molecules) in regular envelopes, with stern instructions to refrigerate immediately upon arrival.

I'd bet that a few hours outside the fridge won't hurt anything, providing the temperature stays reasonable (between 40 - 85° F, or 4 - 30° C). Ask your vet or call the customer support number at the company that manufactures the stuff.
posted by Quietgal at 10:17 AM on November 5, 2010

Response by poster: DOH!

LOL @ me.

I called the special doggy pharmacy. She said that it is only refrigerated because of the beef flavoring in the liquid, not the drug itself. DOH! No problem with transporting it.

Thanks all. Good suggestion to call them.
posted by k8t at 10:40 AM on November 5, 2010

I use this for my insulin when I travel. Freeze the pack, and it's good to keep the vials at fridge temperatures for ~12 hours. Don't know if it will fit your medication vials, they might have something that does.
posted by stevis23 at 11:36 AM on November 5, 2010

To echo rtha, if the medicine is >3 ozs. -- more precisely, if the bottle is a >3 oz. bottle, regardless of how much is left in it -- TSA may not let you carry in your carry-on luggage. You might be able to argue that ti's medicine, but as you note above, it's not *your* medicine. Since ambient temperature is okay, you might want to put this in your checked luggage. The cargo hold is generally cooler, anyway.
posted by hawkeye at 4:20 PM on November 5, 2010

I used to pack and ship frozen dessert ingredients and products overseas to Asia. We packed the items in with dry ice in a styrofoam box taped shut in a cardboard box.

To keep things cool, put a block of dry ice on the bottom
To keep things frozen, but a block of dry ice on top too.
posted by p1nkdaisy at 10:06 PM on November 5, 2010

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