Q: We’ve heard that other kids take a “pump vacation” over the summer, especially if they’ll be doing a lot of swimming. Besides not getting the unit wet, are there any other advantages to taking a break from the insulin pump and switching back to injections for a while?
A: It’s common in the summer for some children with type 1 diabetes to take a break from wearing their insulin pumps, even when their particular pumps are waterproof and safe for swimming. Many kids, including self-conscious teens, just don’t like the look or feel of wearing a pump with a bathing suit or bikini, especially if it requires a waterproof pouch that can end up tugging at the suit.
Away from the pool or beach, there are other reasons why a pump break may be viewed as a good idea. For a younger child, a few weeks off can help pump injection sites on the skin to fully heal. For kids who seem to be headed towards burnout, a pump vacation may be just what’s needed to add some variety to their daily care routine.
Whether it’s for a weekend, a week, or all summer long, taking a break from the pump does not mean taking a vacation from diabetes. In place of using a pump, it will be necessary to go back to using insulin shots, which for some children and parents requires a re-education in measuring and timing insulin doses.
If you think taking a pump break may be appropriate for your child, or your child has directly asked to take a break, it’s important to first check in with your diabetes care team. Together, you can come up with a transition plan, given the length of the break you’re aiming for. Your diabetes educator can then go through the basics of insulin dosing with shots and monitoring for lows, especially after exercise. In general, blood glucose numbers may run a little higher as you begin the transition to shots, and then run lower during the transition back to the pump.
If you have an avid swimmer who is in the pool year round, rather than a pump break, it may be a better idea to first look into tubeless, pod-style pumps that have users wear an insulin-filled reservoir at the injection site with a remote unit that gets left on deck controlling its flow of insulin.
However, if you think your child could benefit from time off the pump, make sure he or she is on board with this plan — and that you are, too! Monitoring a child using a pump and administering insulin shots are two very different ways to care for a child’s blood sugar. If your summer schedule is a little bit slower and you have time to work with your care team on the transition, then, yes, summer may be as good a time as any to see whether the grass is greener on the other side.
–Kelley Cerasuolo, R.N., M.S.N., C.P.N.P., is a pediatric nurse practitioner at Texas Children’s Hospital’s Diabetes and Endocrine Care Center in Houston.
How Other Parents Deal
“Our daughter has been on a pump almost since diagnosis, so when we took a little break after our endo recommended it, it was interesting to see blood sugar management from the other side of the fence. She loved the feel of not wearing the pump, but I also think it gave us a chance to understand — and maybe appreciate a bit more — how freeing it can be to not need to get a shot every few hours.”
–Kristina L., Bethany, Mo., mom of 13-year-old Abby
Disclaimer: The information in these articles is not intended as medical advice. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding individual care.
People in the Know: Transitioning to an Insulin Pump