How to shower or swim with an insulin pump?

Living with an insulin pump or any other medical device attached to your body 24/7 is challenging. While these wonderful technologies allow us, diabetics, to considerably improve our diabetes management and control our blood sugar levels, they often bring many concerns along.

Although most insulin pumps are water-resistant, they're not designed to be immersed in the water nor exposed to extreme humidity. So, unless you have one of the rare waterproof insulin pumps or you’re using a waterproof insulin pump case, you must take extra precautions to protect your device when showering, bathing, or swimming.

Related: How to sleep with an insulin pump?

How to shower with an insulin pump?

Most insulin pumps are splashproof and can deal with some moisture. However, very few are waterproof and can be immersed in the water. Taking a shower or a bath with your insulin pump requires a few precautions to protect it from excessive water and humidity. Two methods are possible: you may either disconnect your pump or you may keep it attached and secure it on a shelf, on the floor, or in a waterproof pouch. Let’s dig in!

Related: Can insulin pumps go through X-ray & metal detectors at the airport?

Disconnecting your insulin pump for showering or bathing

Disconnecting your insulin pump before you take a bath or a shower is the safest way to protect it from getting damaged by the water. Instructions for disconnecting and reconnecting your insulin pump depend on the specific one you're using. Whether you're wearing a Medtronic MiniMed, a Tandem T:Slim, a Dexcom, or another insulin pump, you should already be aware of how to disconnect it or read its instruction manual. 

It's important to realize that your insulin pump is constantly injecting microdoses of insulin into your body, so disconnecting it may have an impact on your blood sugar levels. To avoid a rise in glycemia caused by a lack of insulin, it's recommended to never disconnect your insulin pump for more than one hour. In most cases, disconnecting your device for the time of a shower shouldn’t be a problem. But if you want to take a long bath, you should check your blood sugar levels before, during, and after the bath to see how your body responds.

Keeping your pump connected for showering or bathing

If you're not comfortable with the idea of disconnecting your insulin pump every day for your shower or your bath, you may keep it attached to your body instead. This method is a bit "riskier" and requires some precautions to make sure the pump does not get too wet. You might need to ask your pharmacist for a longer set of tubing, so your movements aren’t limited.

In that case, you can try several options and choose the one that you're most comfortable with. For example, you may place your insulin pump on a shelf, in a shower caddy, or in a soap tray. If you're having a bath, you may simply place your pump on the floor beside the bathtub. Some diabetic pump-users also like placing the pump inside a waterproof pouch that they hang on the shower curtain hook or around their neck.

Related: Useful tips for storing insulin safe at home and while traveling

Precautions for diabetics about warm baths and showers

Another thing insulin-dependent diabetics should be aware of before showering or bathing is that warmth sometimes makes your body absorb insulin faster. To prevent hypoglycemia from occurring during your warm bath or shower, always check your blood glucose levels beforehand and be sure they're not on the low line.

As you most probably already know, insulin is a temperature-sensitive medicine that can deteriorate with heat. When exposed to temperatures over 80°F (26°C) for extended periods of time, the insulin inside your pump could spoil. If you’re having a long hot bath, or if you’re using a hot tub or a sauna, it’s more advisable to disconnect your pump and leave it outside the room in a cool and dry place.

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Can you swim with an insulin pump?

Unfortunately, you can’t swim with an insulin pump unless you have one of the few waterproof ones like Omnipod Dash for example. You can’t swim with Medtronic nor can you keep Dexcom on while swimming. Whether you’re at the beach, at the swimming pool, or in the sauna, most insulin pumps need to be disconnected before you enter the water. Also, be aware that the adhesive of the infusion set might be less efficient if immersed for too long in the water. If you're often swimming, consider covering the adhesive with a waterproof bandage.

Warning: swimming is a physical activity that can lower your blood sugar levels. To prevent hypoglycemia from occurring while you’re in the water, check your sugars before you swim and make sure you’re not on the low limit. Always check your glucose level about half an hour after swimming.

Related: Diabetes and Heat: Can hot weather & humidity affect blood sugar?

How to wear an insulin pump with a bathing suit?

Not being able to swim with most insulin pumps does not mean you can't go to the beach or lay down by the pool with them! Letting your device show can be challenging for many diabetics. But we do encourage you to be proud of who you are and to wear your diabetes devices like your insulin pumps or your continuous blood glucose monitors (CGMs) with confidence.

Most insulin pumps have clips at the back that allow you to hang them on your clothes. If most men's bathing shorts have pockets that you can slip your pump in, women's bathing suits demand a bit more creativity. You may have a rare style that comes with pockets. A thick waistband or the back cutout are also convenient places to clip your pump on a bathing suit. You may also slip the pump into your bra or inside an insulin pump waist belt.

Warning: remember that insulin is extremely sensitive to heat and can deteriorate when exposed to temperatures above 80°F (26°C). Keep it safe and use an insulin cooler whenever you're spending days at the beach or by the swimming pool during the summer season.

Related: All you Need to Know about Diabetes Camps for Kids & Adults!

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Waterproof insulin pumps and cases?

There are very few waterproof insulin pumps: Omnipod Dash, LifeScan Animas Vibe, DANA Diabecare R, and Accu-Check Spirit Combo are the only ones that we know of that can be immersed in water without deterioration. If you're using one of these, make sure to read the specific instructions and to check at which depth and duration your pump can be immersed in water.

Waterproof insulin pump cases can be great accessories if you’re concerned about your pump getting wet during a shower or if you’d like to be able to swim with it.

We hope you’ve found answers to all your questions about insulin pumps and water in this article. Don’t hesitate to ask and comment in the section below! 

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