Tips for Taking Insulin

Learning to give an insulin injection can be frightening. Over time it gets easier. Insulin is needed to help keep blood sugar under control.

What are some of the latest thoughts about insulin? The following practices were tested and found to be safe. Please check with your doctor before including them in your daily routine.

  • Alcohol for the Skin Research has shown the number of bacteria carried by an insulin needle is not enough to cause an infection. Most people clean the area where they are going to give insulin with alcohol. Let the alcohol dry. Then give your insulin. If the area is still wet, you may feel a burning sensation.
  • Angle of Injection People with diabetes are taught to give injections at a 90 degree angle. This is to insure the insulin goes into the fat layer. The fat layer is just under the skin. You do not want to inject insulin into the muscle.
  • Rotating Sites Research has found insulin is absorbed at different rates in different sites. The best site to inject insulin is the abdomen. Insulin is absorbed here more consistently then other sites. You can also use the arms, thighs and hips. The hip area is the slowest to absorb insulin. The current recommendation is that you rotate sites at one location, preferably the abdomen.
  • Storing Insulin If insulin is not stored properly, it may not work right. The insulin bottle in use can be kept at room temperature (less than 86F). Extra bottles should be stored in the refrigerator. Once opened, insulin in a vial remains stable at room temperature for 28-30 days. Insulin pens remain stable at room temperature for 10-28 days depending on the type of insulin being used. Give insulin at room temperature to prevent a burning sensation. Be sure to read the directions that come with your insulin vial or insulin pen.

Important things to remember

  1. Learn all you can about syringes, needles and insulin pens. Choose the ones that work best for you. Syringes come in different sizes that hold from 25 to 100 units. Buy the syringes that work best with the number of units you will give with each injection. Generally, insulin syringes have a very short, thin needle. Thin needles may be less painful to use. The higher the gauge of the needle, the thinner it is.
  2. Learn all you can about injecting your insulin.

Steps to Inject Insulin

  • It is important to mix the insulin by gently rolling it in your hands. Do this about 20 times before drawing it into the syringe.
  • First draw up your insulin.
  • Choose where you will give your shot. Insulin is absorbed best in the abdomen. The stomach also has fewer nerves than other places. Pick a spot at least 1 inch from the place you gave your last shot. Avoid the area within 2 inches of the belly button.
  • If you prefer, you can clean the injection site with alcohol and allow it to dry.
  • Remove the cap from the needle. Hold the syringe in one hand as you would hold a pencil.
  • With your other hand, pinch up a couple of inches of skin.
  • Stick the needle straight into the pinched skin. Put the needle all the way in through the skin with one, smooth motion.
  • Relax the pinch and slowly push the plunger all the way down. Be sure all the insulin is in, count slowly to 5 and then remove the needle. If the needle is short count up to 10.
  • Lightly press down on the site. Don?t rub the spot. Don?t worry if a drop of blood appears where the needle was.
  • Write down the insulin dose you just gave yourself in your diabetes log.
  • When you are ready to discard your used needles and syringes, put them into a hard plastic or metal container with a screw-on lid. Label as "Medical Waste" and discard according to the rules in your city.

How can your doctor help you? Your doctor can answer any questions concerning insulin shots. Discuss the above injection practices with your doctor and if you should use an insulin pen or syringe.