Preventing and Treating Insulin Pump Site Infections

People who use insulin pumps purposefully break their skin, the body’s main defense against bacteria, to receive continuous doses of life-saving insulin. For many, the decision to use an insulin pump is a wise one, though it necessitates careful care of pump insertion sites to prevent infection.

Preventing Pump Site Infections

It is important to always follow the instructions given for safe insertion of an infusion set. You and the equipment must be cleaned with the prescribed disinfectant or kept free from contamination, including hands, the injection site, top of the insulin bottle, needle, cannula, and infusion set connections.

Having the set adhered snuggly to the skin also reduces the risk of infection. Since cleaning the infusion site with soap can leave an adhesive-weakening residue, the use of alcohol, or IV prep wipes are recommended. Spraying the site with antiperspirant and letting the area dry thoroughly before insertion helps keep the cannula’s adhesive patch dry and secure.

Some individuals place a bacteria-barrier such as a Tegaderm dressing over the needle or cannula to help secure it and prevent the entry of Staphylococcus aureus or other infectious bacteria.

Still, no matter how careful you are with cannula insertion, an infection may occur at the site.

Signs of Infection

Pump users must change infusion sites regularly and be attentive to the current site’s condition. Redness, pain, swelling (a “pump bump”), and an unexplained elevated blood sugar reading are signs of possible infection and should addressed immediately to prevent more serious symptoms.

Either an abscess or cellulitis indicates a more serious infection. An abscess is a pocket of pus that develops around the insertion site. It may become swollen, red, and be warm to your touch. Cellulitis involves the underlying layers of skin spreading out from the injection site. Symptoms are pain, swelling, and redness.

Treating Pump Site Infections

Minor infections can develop into major infections within a few hours. Inflammation or redness around an infusion site should always be tended to promptly.

If you spot minor signs of infection, change your infusion set and your infusion site right away. Treatment of the infected area can begin immediately by applying a warm compress, washing the area with antibacterial soap and water, and using a topical antibiotic. Report the problem to your doctor. More severe symptoms require an immediate visit to a physician or emergency room since oral antibiotics may be in order, or an abscess may need draining.

For recurring infections, see your doctor or diabetes educator to review proper insulin pump insertion techniques. If your technique is good but infections persist you may need to use a triple antibiotic preparation for insertion:

  1. Wash the site with antibacterial soap and allow the skin to dry.
  2. Cleanse the site with an antibacterial solution and allow to dry.
  3. Apply an antiseptic and adhesive wipe to the site and allow to dry.

People who experience swelling and redness within a couple of days of first using a pump might be having an allergic reaction to an adhesive or the equipment. Check with your doctor. Changing product brands usually remedies this problem.

Sources: Diabetes Pharmacist, Diabetes Forecast
Photo: Pexels

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