Need a (medical not food) cold pack that will stay cold for hours
June 1, 2016 3:49 PM   Subscribe

I've recently started an injectable medication. It works out best for me to be able to do the injection at dawn and then fall back asleep because I already take other (pill) medication this way and it's the most feasible way to do the medications at the same time every day. The thing is, the injection site really hurts afterwards, so I need an ice pack. When it was just a pill at dawn, I could do this without getting out of bed. Now I have to get out of bed to get the ice pack from the freezer. Is there an ice pack/cold compress that I can pull out of the freezer the night before and leave by my bedside that will still be ice cold in the morning?

I saw some 8 hour compresses on amazon, but it looks like they're for WEARING for 8 hours, which suggests they're more "cool" than cold, since you really shouldn't ice for 8 hours. Given that the medication is daily, I need something re-usable, not a one-time-use it-gets-cold-after-you-remove-it-from-the-packet type solution.

Obviously I would be particularly interested in knowing if anyone has ever actually USED any product you're pointing to, especially for similar purposes.

And the reason I do dawn, before someone suggests otherwise is A) My schedule varies a lot and this is the one time of day I absolutely know where I'll be. B) The pill medication has a bunch of food restrictions. By going back to sleep I'm keeping it suitably isolated from any eating activity. Both the pill and the injection need to be at the same time every day (as themselves, not as each other, but coming up with a routine that is consistent at TWO points in the day would just be double the complication and trouble).
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sure you thought of this, but what about putting a little cooler by your bed for the ice pack? Even an insulated lunch box might do the trick.
posted by nkknkk at 3:54 PM on June 1, 2016 [6 favorites]

There are such things as instant ice packs. They're single use only, and they don't cool as well as water ice, but they'd probably be enough to get you out of bed.

My first thought though was the same as nkknkk's: why not just keep your ice pack in a cooler overnight? Add a little extra ice around it (use refilled and frozen juice bottles or something so that you can just refreeze them every day and they don't make the cooler wet) and your ice pack will certainly still be plenty icy by morning. Even a lunchbox sized cooler would work just fine for this.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:01 PM on June 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

Get an insulated lunch bag.
posted by sciencegeek at 4:06 PM on June 1, 2016

in my experience (carrying injectables and ice packs on planes) neither cooler boxes, nor metallic insulated bags, nor metallic insulated bags inside cooler boxes keep things really cold for many hours (but i admit i haven't tried salted ice inside the cooler). and also (but maybe my freezer is warmer than average) you want that ice pack to be freezer cold, not just kinda-cool, to make the injection painless.

honestly, i'd walk to the freezer. it'll be worth it for the coolest possible ice pack. and after the first week or so, i suspect you'll get so used to it you'll fall asleep again. or do the jab last thing at night (i do injections at one time and pills at another and haven't forgotten anything yet). or find a (silent!) mini fridge and install it inside your bedside cabinet.

(have you talked to your doctor about changing the site of the injection? i know my arms are way less painful than my legs, while a friend of mine with the same meds is exactly the opposite...)
posted by andrewcooke at 4:19 PM on June 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Depending how sensitive you are to noise while sleeping, a bedside dorm fridge?
posted by jon1270 at 4:28 PM on June 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

The lowest-fidelity (and probably cheapest) option would be a well-insulated container (cooler, probably, one of the little hard ones, maybe with a towel inside as well) with a pair of large or medium Cool Shock-type reusable freezer packs sandwiching a skin-safe cold wrap that is also fresh from the freezer. You'll want two sets of two ice packs and one wrap, so that you can forget to return this morning's set to the freezer and still have a second one that night.

I have used this method to keep food cold-cold over a commute plus workday, and it maintained a colder temperature than a fridge would, though did not keep anything frozen hard.

Thermodynamics is going to be against you on this unless you want to put a portable ice maker in your room, which you don't, because even if you turn off the actual "make and drop a noisy load of ice" part, the compressors on those things are not real quiet.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:48 PM on June 1, 2016

Medela's breastmilk cooler stays cold overnight given reasonable air temps, especially if the bottles are frozen as well. Its concavities are the right shape for an arm but not really a thigh.
posted by teremala at 4:58 PM on June 1, 2016

Is this intramuscular or intravenous?
posted by Ferreous at 5:20 PM on June 1, 2016

Yes, that breastmilk cooler ice pack really does stay cold for a long time. I was coming in to suggest that one. It is rigid, though, and won't conform to your body. I have long since killed the actual cooler that it came in but it keeps cold in an insulated lunch bag. To be extra sure, you could use one of those insulated lunch bags that also freezes.
posted by freezer cake at 5:33 PM on June 1, 2016

Insulated lunch bag + frozen water bottle (ideally one of those fat Gatorade bottles.) Ice packs are great for absorbing heat, but the greater surface area means they absorb it *fast*. Get a nice fat bottle, freeze it solid, and stick it in some kind of insulation overnight. It should still be icy in the morning, and should cover the injection site fine. (And you have my sympathies - I had one of those meds biweekly for a year, and *man* was it nice to switch to something that didn't add burning to needles.)
posted by restless_nomad at 5:35 PM on June 1, 2016

I think restless_nomad has the right idea with the frozen water bottle, and I'd insulate it together with the cold pack by wrapping them in all of your spare blankets.

To do it the way you're describing (rather than buying some sort of mechanical or solid-state refrigeration device) it's just a matter of adding insulation and adding more chilled mass inside the insulation with the cold pack, in the form of frozen water bottles or even something like stones you keep in your freezer, until it remains as cold as you want at the room temperature you keep your house at for 8 hours.
posted by XMLicious at 6:03 PM on June 1, 2016

I have had great experiences with CryoMax ice packs. They sell them at CVS and on Amazon, among other places. I've used it in an insulated "situation" (traveling, I put it in my checked bag to keep some food cold) and more than 8 hours later, the cell bits were still frozen, so I imagine it, in an insulated container or wrapped in a towel, would do the trick!
posted by beccasaurus at 6:08 PM on June 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Fill a wide-mouthed thermos with ice cubes, and then pour into an ice bag when needed? Or maybe use a really big thermos, then put the ice bag inside.
posted by hooray at 6:10 PM on June 1, 2016

restless_nomad has the right idea. I also take an injectable medication, and when I have to travel with it I pack it in a softsided cooler like this with a couple of the ice packs the pharmacy ships the medication with. I've carried meds on a 12+-hour trip before like this and while the ice packs melted a little bit, they were still mostly frozen (and more than cold enough for what you need) when I got there.
posted by asterix at 6:32 PM on June 1, 2016

I've had luck with doubling up a couple cheap insulated lunch bags (one inside the other, both zipped), plus freeze packs for keeping things colder than a fridge, but not as cold as a freezer. I would think putting an already frozen compress/pack into this would last a night easily.

2nd having two sets of freeze packs for those forgetful days.
posted by MandaSayGrr at 7:11 PM on June 1, 2016

I think your best bet would be a large vacuum insulated coffee mug and a soft gel freezer pack.

Thermos Nissan still makes the most efficient thermoses as far as I'm aware, and this 16 oz mug comes with an airtight screw down lid for maximal long term thermal isolation.

I'd say keep the mug itself in the freezer with the lid screwed on but not tightened, and the gel pack in the freezer too, but not in the mug. Then when you went to bed you could put the gel pack in the mug, tighten down the lid and put the mug next to your bed, and I think the pack would lose very little of its cooling power by the next morning.
posted by jamjam at 10:32 PM on June 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

How about using a slab of dry ice, wrapped in newspaper, in a cheap styrofoam cooler to keep your ice pack cold? A cooler sized block should keep things cold for about a week.
posted by Marky at 10:54 PM on June 1, 2016

If other suggestions don't work out but this is a long term problem you can throw money at ($100-$200), 1.1 cu ft freezers exist and you could have a wee freezer right next to your bed if you had a bit of space and a spare outlet.
posted by foxfirefey at 12:59 AM on June 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have used high-end cold packs for a decade now and I can't imagine they would be cold enough in the morning if left out overnight in any of the scenarios above. I also think that preparing a pack the night before or dumping ice every day would get old very fast. If I were you, I'd get a small fridge or freezer and put it by the bed. College kids dump stuff like that at this time of year. I bet you could pick one up for nothing.

I've learned from my years with back pain that these things are worth spending money on to get right. Your quality of life will suffer otherwise.
posted by CtrlAltD at 1:22 AM on June 2, 2016

Marky has a good suggestion. If you add enough wet ice to your cooler there will still be plenty of ice in it by morning, but 0C is the coldest you're gonna get. If you need it to be more like -20C (i.e. straight-from-the-freezer cold) then dry ice will get you there. Alternatively, as others have suggested, you could keep a small freezer by your bedside.

But I would stay away from cold packs and just use a regular old ice pack. Cold packs usually will gradually warm over time, whereas ice packs will pretty much stay at 0C until all the ice is melted. If you have a small cooler full of frozen juice bottles with an ice pack in the middle (which could be as simple as another frozen juice bottle, or a ziplok bag full of water and wrapped in a rag which you could pre-form it to your injection site by storing it pressed against something that's about the right shape) I guarantee you the ice pack will still be mostly ice in the morning, and it'll still be literally ice-cold.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:16 AM on June 2, 2016

Dry ice is -80degC and will destroy your skin if pressed against it. Anything touching the dry ice will also get cold enough to damage your skin. Also, the fumes formed as the dry ice sublimes are also way too cold for your skin, as are the things they cool on their way out. I have scars to back this up. So, at best, you need to completely isolate your cold pack from the dry ice, probably with a very thick layer of wet ice (which will freeze into one solid mass), and keep the cold pack out of the path taken by the cold CO2 after sublimation. By which time you're not keeping the pack that cold after all. Even then I'd say that using it every day you're likely to slip up at some point and either grab the wrong thing or press a too-cold ice pack to your skin causing an unpleasant freezer burn.

I've stored normal cold packs overnight in a well sealed, thick walled chiller bin and, as long as there's enough other solid frozen mass in there at the start, the packs are still frozen the next morning. This was camping so in a warm tent rather than a climate-controlled house. I also like drink bottles filled with water as extra cold mass to put in there, big solid hunks of ice rather than small pieces. Keep in mind that you want as little air in there as possible. Then I also like those chemically gel ice pack things (which those CryoMax things look like), they often have stuff in there that's not just water and which holds the cold better. I get mine from things that are delivered in the lab, so if you have any science friends try asking them.
posted by shelleycat at 8:18 AM on June 2, 2016

The solution exists! Just for you!
posted by Mrs. Rattery at 9:50 AM on June 2, 2016

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