11 August 2020

Summer, hot weather and insulin pumps

The sizzling sunshine has us all digging out the t-shirts, shorts, sunnies and suncream from the back of the wardrobe. Hooray! But with hotter summer temperatures comes a bit of extra stuff to look out for as a person living with diabetes.  

Hang on – there’s already enough to think about!  

Right?! However, the safety of your diabetes equipment (and of course you too), needs a little preparation before you head out to reduce the chance of those unwanted surprises later on. So you have more time to think about much more important things, like which flavour ice cream you’re in the mood for. 

The human body is amazing at adapting to changing conditions. Our body temperature regulates itself without us even having to press a button – although we may notice ourselves get a little sweaty! Just like our bodies, insulin, hypo treatments, blood glucose kits and insulin pumps have optimal temperature ranges too. So as the temperature outside soars, it’s worth checking what your diabetes equipment can and can’t handle, because while you might be able to stand the heat, your diabetes may not! 

Your insulin pump: The Science Bit 

Insulin pumps are robust little things – they wouldn’t be delivering life-saving insulin if they weren’t. But just like your phone and other technology, pumps have their limits too. Lots of insulin pumps have metal parts to them which can get particularly hot and bothered in direct sunlight. And, even the non-metal parts have their limits! 

No matter which insulin pump you’re on, there should be a section called ‘Technical Specifications’ somewhere in the user manual. Or as the cool people at Kaleido say, ‘tech specs’. This section describes the types of conditions your insulin pump system can withstand. Things like temperature, air pressure level, height levels and IPX, which is how much water it can handle. If your insulin pump is splash-proof or even waterproof, the IPX will tell you to what depths and for how long (for example 1 meter for 1 hour). Do you love being in the water? One hour will probably fly by and you might prefer to temporarily remove your pump while you splash about in the sea. If you’re unsure you can always chat with your healthcare professional (HCP) to get some recommendations tailored to you. Because that’s the thing about diabetes – it’s pretty unique to everyone. 

The tech specs might look a little bit, well… technical, but they are there to assist you in knowing your pump systems limits. For example, the Kaleido tech specs tell you the following operating conditions: 

  • Temperature Range 5oC – 37o
  • Humidity Range 5% – 93% 
  • Pressure Range 0.7 bar – 1.06 bar 

You may not need all the information in there, but if you ever do need to find out, you’ll know exactly where you stand.  

Other stuff to think about when you’re feeling hot, hot hot 

You’ve probably been reminded plenty of times to carry some backup diabetes equipment with you when you’re out and about. Just in case something doesn’t go to plan. We’re not here to tell you what to do, but you can always check with your HCP if you’re not sure about what or how much you need. The hot weather sometimes does funny things to our blood glucose levels, so I know some people at Kaleido HQ will be packing extra hypo sweets for the warmer summer days!  

Insulin is one substance that definitely doesn’t like the heat. It prefers to play it cool, so keep it below 30oC (86° F) (or check the manual in your insulin to see the max temperature) or there’s a risk it won’t work properly once it’s in your system – and that’s definitely not fun! 

Lastly, back to those amazing bodies and what happens when it gets hot. Sweat, body heat and water can all irritate an infusion site. So when the heat is on, it might help to choose sites that are less affected by these things. And if you’re thinking about taking a dip in the water, it’s worth thinking about where to put your site and pump if you’re going to be particularly active. No-one likes it when their insulin pump makes a break for freedom! Your HCP should be able to help you with things like adhesive tape to keep your site or pump secure. 

Have a great summer! 

About Dee

Dee has always been passionate about working in the medical field. Especially when it comes to assisting People with Diabetes (PwD’s). With her late stepfather having had Type 1 Diabetes, she wanted to make a difference in the world for PwD’s. She joined ViCentra earlier this year as an Education & Training Manager to make that happen. With 18 years of experience in this field (15 years working directly with insulin pumps). Dee understands and knows a lot about pumping, but also the other stuff that hits you when you live with diabetes. 

  1. https://clinmedjournals.org/articles/iacph/international-archives-of-clinical-physiology-iacph-1-001.php
  2. https://www.medicines.org.uk/emc/files/pil.7919.pdf
  3. http://pi.lilly.com/us/humalog-vial-ifu.pdf