Insulin pumps can give your child the freedom from being pricked every day. But it can also lead to unnecessary emergency room visits for diabetes-related incidents. And what you may think of as another skin irritation due to your child’s allergies to medical adhesives may just turn out to be a diabetes pump site infection.
So, before the redness and soreness can spread and cause your kid to groan in pain, you can prevent the pump site infection from escalating. Keep the pump site clean and watch out for any redness around the area. And knowing the difference between irritation and infection can be helpful!
We will talk about what you can do if your child’s pump site gets infected to prevent a trip to the E.R.
But before we get down to it, it’s crucial to identify a pump site infection correctly.
Signs Your Child’s Pump Site Might Be Infected
Spotting your child’s pump site infection early is essential to prevent more severe complications.
Here are the symptoms that should raise a red flag:
- Redness of the skin over the pump site.
- Prolonged pain at the site of the insulin pump.
- An unexplained elevated blood sugar reading.
- Swelling or hard lump at pump site.
Know that redness that is spreading or warm to the touch is an infection, while redness that tends to be on the itchier side is an irritation.
It’s probably an infection if the skin feels more tender and is gradually hardening, especially if this is under the skin close to the needle center. This may be an indication of an abscess in the making. If your child winces with pain while pushing down on the site, it’s time to take it off immediately.
Signs of a more severe infection are cellulitis or an abscess. A pus-filled pocket that forms close to the insertion site is an abscess. It might swell up, turn red, and feel warm to the touch.
Keep in mind that swelling and redness within a couple of days of first using a pump may not mean the site is infected (yet). It might be due to your kid having an allergic reaction to an adhesive or the equipment. Changing product brands usually solves this problem.
Also, note that some children can experience a tiny raised area or bump at the injection site. But it usually disappears on its own and is neither painful nor red. This is known as lipohypertrophy and is caused by lumps of scar tissue or fat that develop under the skin because of repeated infusions.
What Causes the Pump Site to Get Infected?
Pump cellulitis is an infection that is often caused by poor preparation of the pump site before insertion. Poor cleaning or leaving the needle in too long are also common causes of cellulitis at the insertion site.
Another possible cause for pump site infection is poor adhesion of the pump. Your kid may move their infusion set around to a body part that is more comfortable, less sweaty, and stretchable. But this also means more chances of infection!
What To Do If Your Child’s Insulin Pump Side Gets Infected?
After taking off the pump site bandage and you notice that it is slightly more red than usual, it’s time to keep a close eye. Pay attention to other indications of infection, like pain and discharge or heat at the site.
Circle the area with a pen to observe its progression. You should take action if you notice the redness expanding outside the circle over the next 12 hours.
See a medical professional when your child catches a pump site infection. The timing makes all the difference. Swelling or redness around an infusion site should always be dealt with quickly, as minor infections can develop into major ones within a few hours.
However, there are a few at-home treatments that you can do to help keep your child safe.
- If an infusion site reveals symptoms of infection, remove the pump immediately and apply a new one at a different location. Then, make a call to your child’s doctor.
- Keep topical antibiotics (like the classic Neosporin) handy. This can help prevent infection from getting worse and help protect and heal the pump site.
How to Prevent Pump Site Infections?
To prevent diabetes pump site infection, it’s crucial to always follow these steps:
1. Keep the pump site clean
This one seems obvious, but some of us get lazier the longer our kids have diabetes. Bacteria entering the pump site is a common cause of infection, and skipping out on proper cleaning may come back to haunt you later!
Hands, the injection site, the top of the insulin bottle, needles, cannulas, and infusion set connections must be cleaned with the recommended disinfectant or kept free from contamination.
2. Watch closely
Use the pump’s viewing window at least once daily to inspect the area for infections and ensure the soft cannula is firmly in place.
3. Secure pump site
A snug fit between the set and the skin lowers the chance of infection. Use alcohol or IV prep wipes instead of soap to clean the infusion site because soap can leave behind a residue that weakens the adhesive.
Before inserting the cannula, thoroughly dry the area and spray it with antiperspirant to keep it dry and secure. Ensure the skin is clean, dry, and free of oils, perfumes, and lotions.
The day before inserting the infusion set, hairy sites should be shaved toward hair growth (rather than against it). Overbandages may be applied to increase adhesion.
4. Protect the pump site
Some parents cover the needle or cannula with a bacteria barrier, like a Tegaderm dressing, to help secure it and keep infectious bacteria out. Others opt for 3M Cavilon no-film spray, cream, or wipes.
These products don’t contain alcohol and act as barriers for the skin, shielding it from harm and maintaining skin health.
5. Continuously monitor sugar levels
Check blood sugar levels 4 to 5 times a day. Your kid could have a quick rise in blood glucose if there are problems with the insulin pump or infusion site.
6. Change the pump frequently
Wear each infusion set for only two to three days and follow all the above guidelines to ensure your kid’s pump site doesn’t catch infections.
Other Complications of Insulin Pump Use
Insulin pump use is associated with other complications apart from infection. Here are some important ones to take notes of:
Insulin Pump Problems
Problems with the insulin pump can involve any portion of the device. Batteries can fail, and tubing can easily kink or crack. Reservoirs can leak, and subcutaneous needles can frequently slip out.
Pump failure can quickly shoot up blood glucose levels, leading to emergencies. Always check if your kids’ pump and software are working correctly to prevent serious problems.
Unfortunately, the use of insulin pumps has also been linked to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), possibly due to pump issues that prevent proper insulin administration.
Allergic Reaction To Adhesives
Kids may develop allergies to bandages and adhesives used to secure insulin pumps. Glues used for the adhesive may cause skin conditions like contact dermatitis causing blisters (that may ooze fluid), rashes, and skin flaking. This is more likely when the adhesives are left on the skin for several hours or days.
Avoid the adhesive products your child is allergic to. This can reduce the chance of a reaction. You can also try applying the pump to a different area of the body. It’s possible that the rash doesn’t appear on another site, but you may need to stop using that product if the rash reappears.
Hematoma, or collection of blood under the skin at the insertion site, is another complication of an insulin pump. This can lead to pump blockage, causing your kid’s blood sugar to spike.
Abscess From Insulin Pump
Insulin pump infection that is not spotted and treated on time can lead to the formation of an abscess that can be painful to your child.
Also, changes in your kid’s blood sugar level can leave their skin more susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections that cause an abscess.
Sure, insulin pumps keep your child from multiple daily injections and give them flexibility with food and exercise, but they are also associated with some complications.
Pump site skin infections are one of the most common complications, as insulin pumps require implanting a catheter under the skin for several days.
As long as the proper procedures and precautions (like the ones we discussed) are followed, insulin pump infections can be avoided.
But if they do occur, they can be uncomfortable and even dangerous. So going to see your child’s doctor sooner than later is the best thing you can do!
If you struggle with keeping track of the insulin pump sites on your child, our app Gluroo can help. You can keep a detailed log of every aspect of your child’s diabetes on Gluroo, including the pump sites.
Gluroo also allows you to collaborate with other caretakers to make sure everyone involved in managing your child’s diabetes is aware of every relevant detail such as recently used pump sites and possible infections that occurred.
You can find out more about Gluroo here on our website or download it today for free.