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Using Insulin

Insulin is given with shots (injections) in the fatty layer under the skin (subcutaneous). Some people use an implanted device called an insulin pump. Your health care provider, nurse, diabetes educator, or others will give you instructions about using insulin. Make sure you follow all instructions about when and where you use it.

Where to inject your insulin

Injection sites in adults include the belly (abdomen), front of thighs, back of upper arms and upper buttocks.

  • Injecting insulin in the same area (like your belly or abdomen) means that insulin is absorbed the same way.

  • Insulin is most often injected in the abdominal fat. That is where it is absorbed most quickly.

  • Change the injection site each time you give yourself insulin. This helps prevent problems.

  • Have an organized way of moving from site to site.

  • Leave at least 2 inches around your belly button (navel).

When to inject your insulin

  • Make sure you follow your health care provider's instructions about when you should give yourself insulin.

  • The timing of insulin injections with meals or snacks is very important.

Getting ready

  • Wash your hands. Use soap and warm water.

  • Wipe the top of the insulin bottle (vial) with alcohol.

1. Hands holding a syringe and vial with insulin. Syringe is being inserted in vial. 2. Hand holding syringe and vial of insulin. Syringe is underneath vial with plunger pulled out.
Preparing the insulin

  • Pull back the plunger until the end of the plunger is even with the number of units of insulin you take.

  • Insert the needle into the top of the bottle. Hold the needle and bottle straight up and down. Make sure the needle is in the insulin. Then push the plunger in all the way, pushing air into the insulin.

  • Turn the bottle and syringe upside down so that the bottle is on top.

  • Pull back on the plunger until the end of the plunger is even with the number of units of insulin you take.

  • Remove the needle. Then tap the syringe with a fingertip to remove any air bubbles.

Injecting the insulin

Closeup of abdomen showing hands giving subcutaneous injection in belly fat.


  • Gently pinch up about 1 inch of skin. Do not squeeze the skin.

  • Insert the needle.

  • Push in the plunger. Press until the syringe is empty. Let go of the skin. Then remove the needle. Don’t rub the site after you remove the needle.

Disposing of the syringe

  • Put the needle and syringe in a sharps container. And don’t recap the needle.

  • When the sharps container is full, put it into a garbage bag and secure the top. Label the bag “needles” or “sharps.”

  • Call your local waste company to ask about removing the sharps container. You can also check with the Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal at 800-643-1643,

Storing your insulin

  • Keep unopened insulin bottles in the refrigerator. An open bottle can be stored at room temperature (such as on the kitchen counter). But don’t let the insulin get too hot. Always keep it below 86°F (30°C). And never let it freeze!

  • Always use insulin before the expiration date on the bottle. Throw expired bottles away.

  • Use insulin within 28 days of opening the bottle. After 28 days, throw it away. To remember, write the date you opened it on the bottle.

  • When you travel, be sure to take all of your diabetes supplies. Put them in a bag made to protect insulin from heat and cold. Always keep them with you. If there is a delay or your suitcase is lost, you will have what you need.

  • Never leave insulin in the car. It can get too hot or too cold.


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