By: Jennifer Harris for Diabetes1
Insulin pumps are enabling people with diabetes to enjoy a more flexible lifestyle. From sports to travel, activities that were difficult to manage using insulin shots have become accessible again.
An insulin pump is a small, wearable device that looks like a pager. It has an interface that each user programs according to their own needs. This interface controls the pump, releasing the designated amount of insulin at the right time. The other part of the device is the pump reservoir that delivers insulin to the body via a thin plastic tube. This tube ends just under the skin in a small plastic or steel needle called a cannula. The tubing and cannula comprise the infusion set. Inserting the infusion set is similar to giving an insulin shot, but it only needs to be replaced every two to four days.
|Traveling Tips for Pump Users:
Get a letter from your doctor in case you stopped in a metal detector.
Pack in your carry-on extra supplies: pump batteries and supplies, insulin, pen injector or syringe as a back-up, and blood testing equipment.
Always adjust the pump to the time zone you are currently in.
Protect or remove your pump if you are participating in activities where it can be disturbed.
For the athlete with diabetes, using an insulin pump allows greater flexibility in when they can train and play. Because pumps use fast-acting insulin, mealtimes don’t need to be regimented – so you can plan your meals around your game, rather than your game around your insulin shots. The athlete has a choice to take the pump off during activity or leave it on. This is a personal decision that should be made with the input of your healthcare team. Generally, a pump should not be disconnected for more than an hour at a time; otherwise, blood sugar levels may rise. Each athlete will need to determine what is best for him/her by noting their sugar levels before, during and after exercise. Eating a snack or adjusting the insulin injection rate can help develop a good system for each individual. For athletes in contact sports, insulin pumps should either be removed during play or protected with a covering. Non-contact athletes can use accessories similar to those used for running with an iPod, which hold your pump protected and close to your body.
Sleeping with an insulin pump is made easy by the long tubing, letting the pump rest on the nightstand or under the pillow. Using an insulin pump will alleviate the “dawn phenomenon” caused by high blood sugar early in the morning.
When traveling with a pump, make sure to pack extra supplies such as insulin, batteries, and a syringe or pen injector for emergencies. Always travel with blood testing equipment. If flying, pack extra supplies in a carry-on so they are always accessible. Insulin pumps generally do not set off security alarms, though it depends on the airport. Having a doctor’s letter will help ease of passage through airport security. If changing time zones, make sure to adjust the pump to the new time. This is crucial so the pump can adjust for when you are asleep and awake. And always remember to reset the time upon arrival back home.
Insulin pumps don’t manage diabetes – only you can do that. They can however make life a lot less complex and let you get back to the things that really matter.