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November 24, 2002

Exercise and Sports, Insulin Pumps

Question from Townsville, Queensland, Australia:

My daughter has type�1 diabetes and is on a pump. We will visiting Canada and skiing there. Do you have any tips on keeping the pump (and the insulin) warm while skiing? Up until now we have had our daughter keep the pump close to her body so that body heat will keep it from freezing, but Australian ski fields aren't quite as cold!


This center runs a ski group and has not had any problems either with insulin pump functioning or pump detachment with falls at altitudes that are mostly between 9,000 and 11,000 feet. The most important concern has been to reduce infusion rates so as to avoid hypoglycemia. I expect that you have already had some experience with this but depending on altitude, how hard you ski and the extent to which diabetes may have diminished the counterregulatory epinephrine response, it may be from 20 to 50% in basal rates and boluses so you have to watch blood sugars whilst skiing until you have worked this out.

Additional comments from Dr. Stuart Brink:

You can place the pump in an extra case which this would provide some extra temperature protection. Keeping it under a ski jacket and perhaps under a sweater or sweatshirt as well will obviously add some temperature protection.

Most of our patient using pumps have no problems when skiing. The only time we’ve had problems is when someone was wearing a very short jacket and the pump was actually exposed to the mountain air – I suspect the battery actually got too cold and this made the pump work very sluggishly for several hours.