How Long Can You Disconnect an Insulin Pump For? a Helpful Guide

Posted August 14, 2020 by Michael Chamberlain - See Editorial Guidelines

Diabetes management takes a great deal of thought and care, which can be hectic at times. Especially for insulin users who have a whole set of do’s and don’ts to be aware of

One thing many want to know is how long can an insulin pump be disconnected. So, in this article, we’ll give a clearer guide on how long insulin pumps can be disconnected, when are they okay to be disconnected, what to do when disconnected, and much more.

Let’s give you a quick summary answer, then we’ll get into more details.

How long should Insulin Pump Be Disconnected? 1-2 hours is the general recommended time for how long an insulin pump can be disconnected. However, if this period includes exercise or other intense physical activities then you may be able to disconnect the pump for longer. Before doing this, you should first consult your doctor about how long you specifically can go with your insulin pump disconnected.

So, that’s a quick summary, but there’s more to it than that. So, let’s dive into some of the details, starting with the most important question

Is It Okay to Disconnect an Insulin Pump?

How Long Can You Disconnect an Insulin Pump For

The first question you should ask yourself is, is it okay to disconnect an insulin pump at all.

In general, many doctors recommend that diabetes patients wear insulin pumps at all times. Especially for diabetes patients with severe diabetes conditions.

This is why many insulin pumps can be worn during exercise and other physical activities by using a belt or other object to hold the pump down. There are also water-resistant insulin pumps that allow patients to wear their insulin pumps in the shower, pool, or at the beach.

These versions of insulin pumps are introduced so that diabetes patients hardly have to disconnect their insulin pump at all.

However, in general, disconnecting an insulin pump for a time less than 1-2 hours should, in general, be fine. Never disconnect your insulin pump when it is in the middle of delivering a bolus.

Exceptions for How Long You Can Disconnect an Insulin Pump

Some experts believe that disconnecting an insulin pump for longer periods in a day or more will not create any major risks for diabetes patients who include exercises as part of their daily activity.

When you’re involved in any intense physical activities, it makes your heart beat faster and naturally uses up a lot more energy. This means that, in turn, your muscles will use up more glucose from the bloodstream, thereby reducing blood sugar levels in the blood. Find out more about the relationship between diabetes and exercise.

So, in a non-diabetic patient, when you exercise, the need for insulin is less because the blood sugar levels are not as high. Meaning, the pancreas won’t release insulin, as the glucose levels naturally reduce when glucose is used for energy.

Because of these reasons, doctors and other healthcare professionals advise insulin pump users to program the insulin pump to release less insulin during exercise or other intense physical activity. 

The intention of this is to reduce the amount of insulin circulating in the blood. Those that use an insulin pump and do not adjust insulin doses for exercise may experience hypoglycemia.

In a nutshell, you can disconnect an insulin pump for 12 or 24 hours for intense physical activities like exercises, sports, dancing, and so on. During this time, you should keep a close eye on symptoms of high or low blood sugar levels. Often, doctors recommend that diabetes patients stick to no more than 12 hours.

It should also be mentioned that this exception may not be suitable for diabetes patients who have severe conditions of diabetes. So, in that case, it’s better to get advice from your doctor or healthcare professional.

Again, these exceptions of disconnecting an insulin pump for 12 or 24 hours will not always be suitable. This is because strenuous exercise can sometimes increase blood sugar temporarily after you stop exercising. Alongside this, if you engage in too much intense physical activities, then you can start releasing stress hormones, which can lead to an increase in blood sugar levels.

Therefore, it is crucial for patients to carefully monitor their blood sugar levels when they have disconnected their insulin pump.

Exceptions for Active Diabetes Patients

How Long Can You Disconnect an Insulin Pump For

Some health professionals and experts say that a diabetes person can go without an insulin pump for at least a day, depending on how active the person is.

Meaning the more physically active the person is throughout the day, the longer they can go without an insulin pump, at least for more than the generally recommended 1-2 hours.

For this, the best way to check how long you can go without insulin, if you’re an active person, is to do a short test. Then you can disconnect the insulin pump and continuously/periodically monitor blood sugar levels.

Monitoring blood sugar levels through finger pricks or GCM’s will show you when or after how long you experience high blood sugar levels.

This testing should be matched against your diet too, to see how long you can disconnect an insulin pump during an active day.

What Happens When You Disconnect an Insulin Pump for Longer?

What happens when you disconnect your insulin pump for longer periods is that you may not be aware of your high glucose levels, which can lead to hyperglycemia.

Apart from this, you might also experience a situation of DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis) if you disconnect your insulin pump longer than what is considered safe. DKA is a life-threatening condition that results from having high blood sugar for a longer period.  

So, if you disconnect an insulin pump for valid reasons, it’s essential to ensure you are still getting the insulin you need to keep your blood sugar levels in range. Below is a breakdown of how to administer insulin doses when you disconnect your insulin pump or take a break from insulin pumps.

Disconnecting Insulin Pumps for More Than 24 Hours

How Long Can You Disconnect an Insulin Pump For

If you want to disconnect the insulin pump for more than 24 hours, you will need to take multiple daily injections of insulin (for those with type 1 diabetes).

You must consult your doctor about the ratios of insulin you will need, as it will vary from person to person. The dose of this insulin should be in line with the following:

  • One injection of long-acting insulin at the same time each day you are not using a pump.
  • Rapid-acting insulin injections for meals and blood sugar corrections.

If you are planning on disconnecting the insulin pump for more than a few hours, but less than 24 hours, then you may require a couple of injections of rapid-acting insulin. Again, this must be cleared with your doctor. The moment you notice your blood sugar beginning to spike, you may need to reconnect your insulin pump.

Conclusion

We hope this has provided you with some guidance on the question of how long an insulin pump can be disconnected. This article is not intended to be complete medical guidance. We would, of course, always recommend consulting your doctor before taking any drugs you feel may not be suitable or effective.

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