Does the insulin pump you choose for your child really make a difference? Do all insulin pump types improve a child’s quality of life?
For any parent of a child with diabetes, good blood glucose control means less stress and fear. But even when you decide it’s the right option, selecting the best insulin pump for your child isn’t necessarily a matter of choice.
Some health insurance companies will expect you to pick from a pre-approved shortlist. All of them expect your child to fit strict eligibility criteria both before and after insulin pump approval. And after you have chosen a model, an insurer will usually expect your child to use the same pump for its entire warranty period – about 3 to 4 years.
Having said that, if you are offered a choice, here are some things you should consider.
Advantages of Using an Insulin Pump
The advantages of insulin pumps make them a popular choice for children. A young person with diabetes often struggles with this disease’s limiting factors. The responsibility of daily monitoring, injections, and carbohydrate counting lowers a child’s sense of carefree independence and spontaneity.
Leaving some of the work to an electronic insulin delivery system gives many children with type 1 diabetes more opportunity to live in the moment.
Here are some of the advantages of using an insulin pump:
- Better glycemic control: Most modern insulin pumps administer a tiny quantity of quick-acting basal insulin throughout the day and night. These small doses mimic the oscillating insulin production of a healthy pancreas. Thanks to that slow trickle of basal insulin, blood sugar levels are more likely to be stable, day and night.
- Flexibility: Another insulin pump advantage is flexibility. The choice to participate in high-energy play doesn’t require quite so much planning and preparation anymore.
- Convenience: Insulin pumps are much more convenient than injections. Your child doesn’t have to carry the pens around and doesn’t need to take time in the day for multiple injections which, for a kid, is not only inconvenient but might also be embarrassing. Also, if your kid is afraid of needles, the pump becomes even more convenient.
- Improved quality of life: Not having to worry about multiple injections a day takes the weight off your child’s shoulders. And yours as well. Knowing that insulin delivery isn’t 100% solely on your kid’s hands anymore and that you can control insulin delivery and BGL data remotely (especially if you use Gluroo), is sure to improve your quality of life.
But, as great as insulin pumps are, they also present a few disadvantages so, as with any decision, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons carefully.
Tips on Choosing an Insulin Pump That’s Right for Your Child
Whether you are limited by health insurance options, or pay for your own choice, the decision to switch your child to an insulin pump shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Questions to ask yourself or your child are:
- How do multiple daily injections affect your child’s quality of life?
- How reliably do you or your child check blood glucose levels? Doctors may not recommend an insulin pump if a child (or the parents) doesn’t make a committed effort to check blood glucose levels throughout the day.
- Does your child suffer from needle anxiety?
- Is your child very underweight? Lack of fat tissue makes needle insertion more painful and increases the risk of bent or dislodged cannulas.
- Might your child find an insulin pump embarrassing when with friends or classmates? Talking about and visualizing potential situations with your child can bring worries and fears into the open.
- Does your child enjoy regular contact sports or rough play?
Once you think an FDA-approved insulin pump is the right choice, it’s time to make an appointment.
1. Discuss with Your Child’s Doctor
Medical consent is required by all insulin pump insurance plans. Even when you buy a pump independently, you must talk to your child’s doctor first.
Most doctors are happy to recommend an insulin pump for any child or parent who can use the device safely.
2. Study Each Pump’s Features & Integrations
Most insulin pumps work in a very similar way – they deliver short-acting insulin into subcutaneous fat.
It’s the technology and features of each pump that make the difference.
Safety features like alarms and control buttons are crucial for any child-friendly insulin pump. Always discuss which alarm settings to use with your child’s doctor.
The more advanced insulin pump models integrate with continuous glucose monitors (CGMs). These are called hybrid closed-system insulin pumps. If your family health insurer covers CGM sensors, it’s guaranteed to cover at least one CGM-integrated insulin pump. In this case, a hybrid closed-system insulin pump that integrates with the CGM brand your child uses will be the simplest option, if not the cheapest.
Additional insulin pump features to consider:
- Alarm settings: will your child hear/feel them?
- Basal insulin volume increments – are they small enough?
- Remote operation: do you need to operate the child’s insulin pump from a distance? How secure is the remote operation?
- Does your child need a waterproof insulin pump? If so, how long can the pump be submerged, and at what depth?
- App integration: does your phone support the app? Is the app easy to use? Does the pump’s app integrate with your child’s CGM app?
- Software and data: are all downloads and installs safe? Is the software user-friendly? How secure is your child’s medical data?
- Are the shape, size, and weight comfortable for your child?
3. Consider How Easy The Pump Is to Use
As your child will be learning how to control blood sugar levels, it’s important the insulin pump is user-friendly and age-appropriate. Let your child handle a demo model.
4. Weigh the Costs of The Pump: Is It Covered by Insurance?
If your choice isn’t covered by insurance, insulin pump costs can be high. The following 3 models are FDA approved and may be included in your health insurance plan.
- Tandem T:Slim X2: $4,000 for the pump and approx. $120 for 10 infusion sets
- Omnipod 5: 5 pods (15 days of insulin therapy): $270 to $370
- Minimed 780G: $5,600 and approx. $120 for 10 infusion sets
With an average lifespan of 3 to 4 years, insulin pump prices mean a costly investment.
5. Take Your Child’s Wishes into Account
No children are exactly alike. Yours might not mind a tethered insulin pump. Another will insist upon a more discreet patch insulin pump.
Involving your child in diabetes management is vital for better long-term blood glucose control and fewer diabetes complications. Talk to your child about the options and discuss what’s most important to them. Your child’s input will help you come to the right decision.
6. Check for Support Availability and Read Product Reviews
When you have made a shortlist of your and your child’s preferred insulin pumps, contact their customer services departments. Use every available channel of communication and rate the response. How soon are your emails answered? Is the chat option pure chatbot or are you passed on to a helpful human?
Insulin pump reviews can be very misleading. Try visiting appropriate forums run by PWD parents, type 1 diabetes organizations, and diabetic child forums. These will host parents and caregivers who have been in your situation and who, surely, have helpful feedback to share.
An insulin pump can greatly benefit children in their daily diabetes management, giving them more freedom and, potentially, giving their parents more peace of mind.
Make sure you weigh up the pros and cons of these devices before deciding and, most importantly, reach out to your child’s doctor.
Also, try to involve your child in the final decision so you can make sure you find the right insulin pump for both of you.
Another helpful tool in diabetes management for kids is Gluroo.
Gluroo is a collaborative diabetes management app that integrates with insulin pumps and CGMs and allows you to see your child’s real-time BGL remotely. With it, you can also log meals and exercise, and insulin delivery, all in one place. To make it even easier, Gluroo offers a text-recognition chat, so it automatically logs relevant data like meals, carbs, exercises, etc, by reading your texts with your kid on the app’s chat.
Easy for you and easy for your kid. You can download Gluroo today for free.