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Insulin Pumps

An insulin pump can help your child manage his or her diabetes. Insulin pumps can help keep your child's blood glucose levels within their target ranges. People of all ages with diabetes use insulin pumps.

How do insulin pumps work?

Insulin pumps deliver rapid- or short-acting insulin 24 hours a day through a catheter placed under the skin. Insulin doses are separated into:

  • basal rates
  • bolus doses to cover carbohydrate in meals
  • correction or supplemental doses.

Basal insulin is delivered continuously over 24 hours. It keeps blood glucose levels within the proper range between meals and overnight. You may need to program different amounts of insulin for different times of the day and night.

When your child eats, pushing a button on the insulin pump can give additional insulin. This is called a bolus. A bolus can even out the carbohydrate in each meal or snack. If your child eats more than planned, simply program a larger bolus of insulin to cover it.

A bolus is also used to treat high blood glucose levels. If your child has high blood glucose levels before eating, a supplemental bolus of insulin can bring it back to your child's target range.

How is it worn?

An insulin pump can be worn in a pump case or it can be attached to a waistband, pocket, bra, sock, or underwear. You can also tuck any excess tubing into the waistband of underwear or pants.

When your child sleeps, the pump can be worn on a waistband, armband, legband, or clipped to a blanket, stuffed toy, or pillow with a belt clip.

Insulin pumps are water resistant, but should not be put directly in the water. Insulin pumps have a disconnect port for activities, such as swimming, bathing, or showering.

Your child can still have fun when using an insulin pump. When exercising or playing, your child can wear an armband or an elastic waistband with a pump case. Some coaches do not allow any devices to be worn because falling on the pump can be painful. In this case, your child may need to take the insulin pump off. Your child needs to understand that he or she must not go longer than 1 to 2 hours without any insulin. Your child should check blood glucose every 3 to 4 hours.

What are the advantages?

Some advantages of using an insulin pump instead of insulin injections are:

  • Insulin pumps deliver insulin more accurately than injections and may result in fewer large swings in blood glucose levels.
  • Insulin pumps allow your child to exercise without having to eat large amounts of carbohydrate.
  • Insulin pumps let your child be more flexible about when and what he eats.
  • Using an insulin pump means eliminating individual insulin injections.

What are the disadvantages?

The disadvantages of an insulin pump are:

  • It may cause weight gain. Insulin can stimulate the body's ability to store nutrients as fat.
  • It may cause diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) if the catheter comes out and your child doesn't get insulin for hours.
  • Insulin pumps can be expensive.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2007-08-31
Last reviewed: 2010-06-02

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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