Thomy insulin kit uses design to help kids with diabetes

Colourful orange insulin kit containing an insulin pen and temporary tattoos for children

Product design graduate Renata Souza has developed a child-friendly insulin kit for children with Type-1 diabetes. Showcased at Cape Town’s Design Indaba 2018, Thomy is a cheerful, portable kit for kids aged four and over. 

Inside the kit is an insulin pen that’s been ergonomically designed for a child's hand, and a set of playful, non-toxic temporary tattoos that help children remember where they’ve already injected insulin.

According to statistics portal Statista, there were 596,000 children with diabetes worldwide in 2017, with 96,000 diagnosed that year.

Space-inspired temporary tattoo on a child's stomach

Thomy adds a bit of fun to the process of managing a difficult condition.

The idea for Thomy came about when Souza’s six-year-old nephew Thomás was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes. “Living with this condition involves altering daily habits, like monitoring glucose levels, injecting insulin, and supervising diet and exercise,” explains Souza. 

“After observing Thomás’ routine, I realised how tedious the process of injecting insulin into the body is. It’s hard for him to use a regular insulin pen because of his little hands, and it’s easy for him to forget where he last injected insulin.”

Adding fun

Thomy helps diabetic children have fun while managing their process. Here’s how it works: the temporary tattoos provide a visual indication of where a child has previously injected. The black ink remains on the skin, while a coloured dot is removed with an alcohol pad before each injection – ensuring that the area is disinfected. 

“After a couple of days, the tattoo will no longer have colour, indicating it’s time to choose another design and rotate to another injection site,” says Souza. This is important, because Souza’s research showed that the injection site must be alternated to avoid lumps of fat developing.  

Meanwhile, the insulin pen is designed to fit in a child’s hand, and help reduce anxiety associated with needles. It’s fun, and versatile – it can be held in different ways – and, uniquely, the release dial is covered in thermochromic plastic, so it changes colour with temperature. This helps encourage children to keep it in until the full dose has been administered.

Souza knew she had achieved her goal when she received a photo of one of Thomás’ brothers – who isn't diabetic – wearing the tattoos too.

“Despite the fact that early-age diabetes diagnoses are increasing, there are rarely any diabetic products designed specifically for children,” explains Souza.

“Being diagnosed with diabetes forces a child to grow up. They have to learn to inject themselves, cope with a fear of needles, and add and subtract points to figure out what to eat. Not to mention they must forego candy. Thomy gives diabetic children something to look forward to when taking care of their condition.”

The project, which was undertaken as part of Souza’s studies at Parsons School of Design, was a national finalist in the James Dyson Award 2017.

Read more of our Design Indaba 2018 coverage.

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Julia Sagar
Editor-in-chief retail

Julia is editor-in-chief, retail at Future Ltd, where she works in e-commerce across a number of consumer lifestyle brands. A former editor of design website Creative Bloq, she’s also worked on a variety of print titles, and was part of the team that launched consumer tech website TechRadar. She's been writing about art, design and technology for over 15 years.