Insulin Pump Therapy
Wearing a Pump
How to Wear the Pump
This section will review how the pump is “attached” to your body, including what to do when you play sports. Because the pump
is so small, many people don’t even notice they’re wearing one. It’s about the size of a pager, weighing just a few ounces. There
are many ways to wear it or hide it, as you will learn in this section.
Making the Connection with an “Infusion Set”
A thin flexible tube connects the pump to your body. It has an even thinner tube (a “cannula”) at the end that is inserted just under
your skin to deliver insulin. Many pumpers say that inserting the infusion set is no more uncomfortable than taking a shot with a
needle. Lots of pumpers also use a numbing cream like EMLA or L.M.X.4 before inserting the site. Some infusion sets can be inserted
with a mechanical insertion device that can make it easier to insert. Some people report that the insertion device makes inserting
an infusion set relatively painless.
You can get an infusion set with a needle instead of a tiny cannula. These infusions are usually not as comfortable as the ones with
plastic cannulas. Some people prefer the needles though. The choice is yours. The infusion set is placed either on your abdomen,
thigh or buttocks, and changed every two to three days. Some people even get four days per set. Once the infusion set is in place,
it should be painless.
There are many types of infusion sets. You pick the one that works best for you. Generally, the infusion set has a type of tape to keep
the cannula securely in place. At first, this may seem a bit complicated, but so were shots. Practice will make it easier, and soon you
can be “inserting” more quickly.
What It Feels Like Being “Attached”
Like anything else that is new (such as wearing a new ring, shoes or carrying a purse), there is a period of adjustment. As time goes
by, though, you’ll notice the pump less and less. There are times when it’s unavoidable to notice your pump, such as when you’re
changing clothes, but you can easily detach, re-attach and get on with your day. Some people try a pump using saline instead of
insulin while they’re deciding whether or not to switch from shots. Ask your doctor or diabetes educator if you can do this if you
have doubts about being attached to a pump.
Skin Care and Infusion Sets
For best results, you should rotate your infusion site between your abdomen, buttocks and thigh. You should also always keep the
site clean using soap, water and alcohol wipes. It’s also important you wash your hands when changing infusion sets. If your infusion
site is painful or red, you should remove the infusion set immediately. Apply wet, warm cloths and consult your doctor to make sure
it’s not an infection.
Detaching from the Pump
It’s easy to detach your infusion set for playing sports, swimming or taking a shower. Some infusion sets have the ability to be
disconnected from the pump without being removed from your body. The cannula will remain underneath your skin, but the long
tubing and pump can be put away in a safe place or to the side while you bathe or change clothes. If you detach to go swimming,
there is no need to worry about the cannula — the tape attaching it is usually waterproof.
Pumps and Sports
Sweat can cause things to slip when you’re playing sports. To prevent this from happening, you can try using a skin preparation
such as Skin-Tac-H to attach your infusion set more firmly. You can also apply additional tape, such as Tegaderm, or antiperspirant to
the skin around your infusion site. Always check your infusion set after exercise to make sure everything is working okay.
The Hidden Pump
Because the pump is about the size of a pager, it can be worn like a pager with a belt clip. Generally, people will think it actually is
a pager. You can also put the pump in your pocket. Many pump companies offer accessories to either cover your pump (like a little
case) or to attach your pump to your thigh. For women, there are accessories they can use to put the pump in a bra. Some pump
companies sell colored covers or stickers for pumps so you can coordinate the pump with what you’re wearing.