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Using Injected Insulin

You can’t take insulin by mouth because the acids in your stomach would destroy it. Most people take insulin by injection, or shots. Others take it with an insulin pump. Your health care team will show you how to give yourself insulin injections. Use the steps below as a reminder.

Where to Place Your Injections

Injection sites

  • Insulin is most often injected into the fat over the abdomen, where it is best absorbed.

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

  • Have an organized way of moving from site to site. Use all the sites in the same area before moving on to the next. Or use the same area, but not the same site, for injections given at the same time of day.

  • Keep about 1 inch between sites.

  • Leave at least 2 inches around your belly button.

  • Do not inject into broken or scarred skin or into broken blood vessels.

  • Don’t inject over or near a muscle you plan to exercise.

When to Inject Your Insulin

  • Try to inject your long-acting insulin at the same time every day.

  • Eat 5 to 15 minutes after injecting your meal insulin, or a mixed insulin, which includes the meal insulin. (This will depend on the type of insulin you take.)

Getting Ready

  • Wash your hands. Use soap and warm water.

  • Gather your supplies. You need a clean needle and syringe, your insulin, alcohol wipes, and a sharps container.

  • Clean the insulin bottle. Wipe the rubber stopper with alcohol.

  • Prepare the insulin. If you use cloudy-type insulin, roll the bottle gently between your hands.

Preparing the Syringe

NOTE: If you mix insulin, put the clear insulin into the syringe first. Then put the cloudy insulin in.

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

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

  • Turn the bottle and syringe upside down. Hold them in one hand. Turn your hand over so that the bottle is on top.

  • Pull back on the plunger again. Pull back 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

Patient injecting insulin into abdomen

Syringe and insulin.

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

  • Insert the needle into the location that you were taught to inject.

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

Disposing of the Syringe

  • After you inject, put the needle and syringe directly in a sharps container. Never lay them down anywhere. 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 disposal requirements for needles. You can also check with the Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal at 800-643-1643,

Storing Your Insulin

  • Insulin must be kept cool for it to work properly. Store unopened 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 bottles away after that date, even if you haven’t opened them yet.

  • In addition to having an expiration date, insulin must be used within 28 days of opening the bottle. Write the date you opened it on the bottle, as a reminder. Even if you haven’t used it up, after 28 days throw it away and open a new bottle.

  • When you travel, take all of your supplies with you. Put them in an insulated bag, and keep the bag with you. Never put your supplies in luggage that you check on an airplane or a bus.

  • Never leave insulin or needles in the car. They can get too hot or too cold or get lost.


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