Your guide to using an insulin pump for children, straight from an expert

For children and young people with diabetes, insulin pump therapy can help with glucose control, reduce complications, and improve quality of life.
insulin pump
Know how to use an insulin pump. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr Anil Bhoraskar Updated: 23 Oct 2023, 12:33 pm IST
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In India, it is estimated that around 98,000 children have been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus, which can impact their long-term health and wellbeing. To understand diabetes, it is important to understand the role and function of insulin, which is a hormone needed by the human body for its normal functioning. When a person consumes food, the carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, and insulin helps the cells in the body to uptake this glucose and convert it into energy. However, when a person has Type 1 diabetes mellitus, the immune system in the body destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. As a result of low insulin, blood sugar levels rise in the body, causing Type 1 diabetes. This form of diabetes is also called juvenile diabetes mellitus, as it is usually diagnosed in children and teenagers, although adults can sometimes be affected by this as well.

Since diabetes is not a curable condition, it is essential to control blood sugar levels and make lifestyle modifications so that it does not create long-term disabilities and health issues. One of the methods through which children can control their insulin levels is through an insulin pump. Insulin pumps are devices used by diabetes patients to deliver insulin into their bodies. Usually available in small sizes, these computerized devices work on a pre-programmed schedule.

Keep insulin levels in check. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

So, what does an insulin pump do?

An insulin pump is a device that mimics the functions of the human pancreas. The pancreas releases insulin when there is a change in the blood sugar level, but in patients that have diabetes, this response does not happen. That is why the insulin pump helps diabetic patients get the required insulin so that their bodies can convert glucose to energy.

Insulin pumps function by delivering a particular amount of insulin through a tube that is called a cannula. The cannula is inserted under the top layer of the skin. However, the amount of insulin delivered by the device is decided by the specialist, who will determine it based on the type of condition and insulin requirements of each patient. Since diabetes affects each patient differently, the amount of insulin they need will also vary accordingly.

It is also essential to know that insulin pumps provide each patient with insulin according to how each device is programmed. As the appliances cannot adjust independently, they must be reviewed regularly to ensure that the correct amount of insulin is being delivered. Also, these devices require special training on the patient’s part to ensure they are used safely and effectively.

How to use an insulin pump for children

When using an insulin pump for children, it is incredibly vital that you teach them how to use the device properly and handle it in such a manner that it does not become defective or dangerous. Here are some tips and suggestions to help you get started.

1. Avoid direct contact

Make sure the buttons of the insulin pump are not in direct contact with the body so that moisture from the body does not stick to them. The device can be clipped onto a waistband or belt for better convenience.

2. Make sure it’s connected

Always ensure that the insulin pump is connected, except when you have removed it for showering or any water activity. It would also help if you also taught children not to keep playing with the device, as constant meddling can cause it to malfunction.

3. Maintain hygiene

Clean your hands and remove all traces of lotions, sunscreens, creams, insect repellents, and organic cleaning agents before handling the insulin pump. After using the pump, make sure to rewash your hands.

Hand hygiene
Make sure you wash your hands after using the loo. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

4. Clean the pump

To clean the pump, use a mild detergent and water. Please do not keep it under running water or submerge it in any liquid. While you can use alcohol wipes, it is recommended that you do not use any glass cleaners, all-purpose cleaners, or hand sanitisers to clean them.

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5. Avoid taking them closer to other machines

The proper functioning of the insulin pump can be affected when it is exposed to X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and airport scanners, so make sure you disconnect your pump when you are at such places. Also, never pass the device through an X-ray or MRI machine as it can cause it to fail.

6. Store the device in the right place

Store the device in a cool and dry place so that it functions properly for a long time. All medical devices should be kept at room temperature and if taken outside, keep them in a bag or towel where it is warmer.

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About the Author

Dr Anil Bhoraskar Senior Diabetologist, SL Raheja Hospital, Mahim, Mumbai Secretary, Diabetic Association of India (Scientific Section) ...Read More

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