Ask The Diabetes Educator

Pumping During the Sizzlin' Days of Summer

The hot, humid days of summer in Texas have arrived! For those of us wearing (or considering wearing an insulin pump,) we have to take a step back and remember some of our basic diabetes training.

Actually, wearing a pump during summertime specifically gives us more flexibility (versus insulin injections) to do a variety of activities we may not normally do the rest of the year. Activities like swimming, biking, boating, camping, fishing, as well as vacationing with family and friends. With our pumps, we can have a variety of basal rates to match our daily and nightly needs for insulin, we can use multiple bolus features on our pumps for summer bar-b-ques and parties.

However, as we all know, we never get to take a “vacation” from managing our diabetes. The summer break is no exception. Yet, with a little planning and “remembering,” we can look forward to an awesome summertime full of fun and hopefully some well deserved Rest and Relaxation!

So, here we go, with our Pumps It, Inc. Tips for the Sizzlin’ Days of Summer

  1. Check your blood glucose frequently — at least four times per day! I know, I know, we have heard this our entire “diabetes lives,” but how true it is- in order to avoid acute complications of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, we must check often!
  2. Remember how to “interpret” your readings so you can act accordingly. If your blood glucose is less than 70 mg/dl, you are hypoglycemic and must treat immediately. This situation is a medical emergency. Remember your 15:15 Rule and Follow It! 15 grams of carbohydrate (3-4 glucose tablets, 1/2 cup juice,) wait 15 minutes and check glucose again. If you are still below 70 mg/dl, repeat 15:15 Rule, if you are above 70 mg/dl, do nothing. Ask your healthcare provider to prescribe a glucagon emergency kit for you as well.
  3. On the flipside, if you have 2 unexplained glucose readings above 240 mg/dl, CHANGE your pump infusion site and take a correction injection as specified by your healthcare provider. Also, check urine or blood for ketones, if ketones are present, contact your healthcare provider immediately and drink plenty of sugar-free fluids and water for hydration and to flush the ketones out of your body.
  4. Store your diabetes supplies in a cool, dry area. Supplies include: blood glucose test strips, blood glucose meter, pump supplies, insulin, insulin syringe and a source of carbohydrate for treating hypoglycemia. Do not forget, our blood glucose test strips and insulin were not designed to be stored in a car in the middle of the Texas summer!
  5. When you prepare your infusion site, you may need additional “sticking power” during the summer. There are a variety of skin preps and special tapes that can be used to help us keep our infusion sets in during the dog days of summer. Ask your “Pumps It, Inc” representative for suggestions if you are having trouble keeping your site in because of warm weather, water or sweating.
  6. Some insulin pumps are actually “watertight” and can be worn while swimming. However, check your pump casing and make sure there are no cracks or leaks in your pump. If you spot a crack, do not submerge the pump in water. Contact “Pumps It, Inc” to report the crack. IF you disconnect your pump while swimming, check your glucose prior to disconnecting and then after 1 hour. Disconnecting for longer than one hour may cause significant hyperglycemia. Some pumps have a special “disconnect” feature that can help you determine how much insulin you have missed.
  7. Remember to use your temporary basal rate feature. Activities such as swimming, biking, hiking, walking, playing and running may lower your blood glucose levels and you may need to set a temporary rate on your pump to prevent exercise induced hypoglycemia. Make sure you know how to use this feature on your pump and contact your healthcare professional for instruction on decreases in rates.
  8. When traveling on an airline, make sure you carry on all your diabetes supplies. Do not under any circumstance check your diabetes supplies with your baggage. Have your physician write you a letter stating you have diabetes and carry at least double the supplies you think you will need.
  9. If you are not already doing so, wear a medic alert identification. These can be obtained though the American Diabetes Association, James Avery or any local pharmacy or Wal-Mart.
  10. Last but not least, have fun!

Happy Summer and Happy Pumping!

© Connie Chitwood-Vu, MS, RD, LD, CDE, BC-ADM, CPT