Cold capping machines are in their infancy and are not widely available. Machine capping is where a cooling cap is applied your head and attached to a machine which pumps a cold liquid around it. The machine is set to a specific temperature. Application of the cap is relatively simple and there will be someone around to assist you.
Pros of machine capping
- You do not need to change caps
- Maintaining temp is done through a machine
- No dry ice is needed to cool caps as the cooling liquid is pumped through the caps by the machine
- You do not need to store multiple caps in between treatments
- No training to apply caps is required as it is always conducted in a clinic
- Machine capping is slightly easier
Cons of machine capping
- Not widely available
- As the machine is static, they are only available for use at hospitals/clinics
- You may need to keep the caps on for several hours after your chemo session has ended in – with machine capping you will need to stay in the clinic and many would rather return home to continue the capping
- Remaining at a clinic may not be possible due to closing times
- Limited freedom to move around – such as using bathroom or going home to finish your cold capping
- If you do need to move around, you will have to be disconnected from the machine which can limit its effectiveness as your scalp can warm up during this time
- Can be more expensive than manual capping
Manual capping is the most common and readily available method and Penguin are the originators of modern cold capping. Manual capping uses a number of cooled caps that must be changed throughout a session to maintain the constant optimum temperature required. In most cases, cap cooling is done using a cooler box and dry ice. Some hospitals and clinics (though rare) have biomedical freezers in which to cool the caps.
There are a number of types of manual caps. The pull on swimming cap style, and Penguin’s own specially designed and compartmented flat cap which cleverly adjusts and contours to snugly fit the shape of the head. Compartments within the cap are filled with a special gel which remains cooler for longer than other available options.
Penguin caps require you to keep your hair dry, while other companies need you to wet hair with water, conditioner or oils.
Pros of manual capping
- Widely available to rent across USA and countries worldwide
- Not attached to a machine so you are free to move around the clinic while wearing the cap – you can use the bathroom or visit the cafeteria without jeopardising the cooling process
- If the clinic or hospital is far away, has set opening times, or your treatments are late in the day, you can start and finish the cold capping at home, instead of being bound by the clinic’s opening times (this is particularly relevant if you need to wear the cap for several hours after treatment, dependent on drugs and doses)
- Some hospitals only provide allocated time slots for chemo sessions – if your time has passed, you can continue your capping elsewhere
- Some people find having the company of a capping buddy (and the process of changing of caps) to be a healthy distraction and helpful in passing time
- Caps can also be cooled in your home freezer (not a biomedical freezer) and used after exercise, for help in alleviating headaches, oedema (swelling), and to help cool you during hot flushes
Cons of manual capping
- Unlike with machines, you will need to change caps approximately every 25 minutes to ensure the correct level of coldness for optimum results.
- This will be an issue if you want to sleep during the cooling process.
- You will need a chemo companion – a capping helper/buddy to change the caps throughout your capping treatment (companies do provide guides and training and where available you can hire a professional capper to train family and friends or even to change the caps for you during treatment).
- Usually you will need to procure dry ice yourself which is an extra cost.
This is a brief overview of the two methods of capping and their pros and cons. As always, it is up to you to decide which is more convenient based on your circumstances. It is important to always read the terms and conditions and to ensure that you understand all the costs such as shipping charges, equipment hiring, and capping assistance, when considering which method and company to go with, as well as reading up on reviews.
If you would like to hear from other cold cap users then why not get involved with the community and join our Facebook group where there are members sharing experiences, tips and tricks, and generally conversing about life before, during, and after chemotherapy.