Medication Guide App

Giving An Insulin Injection

What are the types of insulin syringes?

Insulin syringes come in different sizes depending on the dose of insulin you need. Use the correct size syringe to make sure you get the right dose of insulin. Your caregiver or pharmacist will help you find the right size syringe for you. The following are general guidelines:

  • If your dose is 50 to 100 units, use a 1 mL syringe.

  • If your dose is 30 to 50 units, use a 1/2 mL syringe.

  • If your dose is less than 30 units, use a 3/10 mL syringe.

Where do I inject insulin?

Inject insulin into the fat layer just under your skin. If the insulin is injected into the muscle, it gets absorbed into the blood stream too fast. You can inject insulin into your abdomen, outer upper arm, buttocks, hip, and the front and side of the thigh. Insulin is absorbed quickest when it is given in the abdomen. Use a different spot each time you give yourself an injection. This helps prevent changes to your skin such as lumps, swelling, or thickened skin. Do not inject insulin into areas where you have skin changes. It may not be absorbed well in these areas.

Insulin Injection Sites

How do I draw up 1 type of insulin into a syringe?

If you use only 1 type of insulin at a time, do the following:

  • Gather your insulin supplies: Get your insulin bottle, syringe, and alcohol pads. Check the insulin label to make sure it is the right kind of insulin. Rapid and short-acting insulin should be clear with no particles. Do not use the insulin if there are clumps or particles in it.

  • Gently mix intermediate or long-acting insulin: These must be mixed before they are given. Turn the bottle on its side and roll it between the palms of your hands. Do not shake the bottle because shaking can make the insulin clump together. You do not need to mix the short-acting insulin.

  • Prepare the insulin bottle: If the insulin bottle is new, remove the cap. Clean the top of the insulin bottle with an alcohol pad before you put a needle into it.

  • Pull air into the syringe: Remove the cap from the needle. Pull back the plunger on the syringe to draw in an amount of air that is equal to your insulin dose. Push the needle into the bottle top and inject the air into the bottle. Leave the needle in the bottle. This helps to keep the right amount of pressure in the bottle and makes it easier to draw up the insulin.

  • Draw up the insulin into the syringe: With the needle still in the bottle, turn the bottle and syringe upside down. Pull the plunger to fill the syringe with just a little more than the insulin dose you need.

  • Check the syringe for air bubbles: If you see any bubbles, tap the syringe with your finger to make them rise to the top. Slowly push in the plunger just enough to push out the air and the extra insulin.

  • Remove the needle from the vial: Carefully lay the syringe down so that the needle does not touch anything.

How do I draw up 2 types of insulin into a syringe?

If you use 2 types of insulin at one time, do the following:

  • Gather your insulin supplies: Get your insulin bottle, syringe, and alcohol pads. Check the insulin label to make sure it is the right kind of insulin. Rapid and short-acting insulin should be clear with no particles. Do not use the insulin if there are clumps or particles in it.

  • Determine the total amount of insulin you need: Add the number of units of each type of insulin together.

  • Gently mix intermediate or long-acting insulin: Turn the bottle on its side and roll it between the palms of your hands. Do not shake the bottle because shaking can make the insulin clump together. You do not need to mix the short-acting insulin.

  • Prepare the insulin bottles: If the insulin bottle is new, remove the cap. Clean the top of both insulin bottles with an alcohol pad before you put a needle into them.

  • Prepare the syringe: Remove the cap from the needle. An amount of air that is equal to each insulin dose should be injected into each bottle. This helps to keep the right amount of pressure in the bottle and makes it easier to draw up the insulin.

  • Inject air into the intermediate or long-acting insulin bottle: This insulin should be cloudy. Pull back the plunger on the syringe to draw in an amount of air that is equal to your long-acting insulin dose. Push the needle through the top of the long-acting insulin bottle and inject air into the bottle. Do not draw out the insulin into the syringe yet. Remove the still empty syringe and needle from the bottle.

  • Inject air into the short-acting insulin bottle: This insulin should be clear. Pull the plunger back to draw in enough air to equal your short-acting insulin dose. Push the needle in through the top of the short-acting insulin bottle and inject air into the short-acting insulin bottle. Leave the needle in the bottle.

  • Draw up the short-acting insulin: Short-acting insulin should be drawn up in the syringe before the long-acting insulin. With the needle in the short-acting insulin bottle, turn it upside down. Pull the plunger to fill the syringe with just a little more than the insulin dose you need.

  • Check for air bubbles: If you see any bubbles, tap the syringe with your finger to make them rise to the top. Slowly push in the plunger just enough to push out the air and the extra insulin. Tiny air bubbles are not dangerous, but they will decrease the amount of insulin in the syringe.

  • Remove the needle from the vial: Recheck your dose.

  • Draw up the intermediate or long-acting insulin: Insert the needle into the bottle of long-acting insulin. Turn the bottle upside down and pull the plunger to draw the long-acting insulin. Because the short-acting insulin dose is already in the syringe, pull the plunger to the total number of units you need. Do not draw extra insulin at this point because you should not inject mixed insulin back into the bottle.

  • Check for bubbles: If you see any bubbles, tap the syringe with your finger to make them rise to the top.

  • Remove the needle from the bottle: Carefully lay the syringe down so that the needle does not touch anything.

How do I inject the insulin?

  • Clean the skin where you will get the injection: You can use an alcohol pad or soap and water to clean your skin.

  • Pinch the skin: Pinch the skin and fat between your thumb and first finger.

  • Push the needle into your skin: With your other hand, hold the syringe at a 90 degree angle (45 degree angle for children or thin people). Make sure the needle is all the way into the skin. If the needle is not in far enough, the insulin may not be injected into the fatty layer. Let go of the pinched tissue before you inject the insulin.

  • Inject the insulin: Press the plunger with your thumb using a slow and steady push until the insulin is gone.

  • Pull out the needle: Pull out the needle at the same angle you put it in. Press your injection site for a few seconds to keep insulin from leaking out.

  • Throw away your used insulin syringe: Insulin syringes should only be used once. Throw away used needles and syringes safely in a hard container that the needles cannot stick through. Close the container tightly with a screw-on cap. Do not recap the syringe before you throw it away. Keep the container out of reach of children and pets.

How can I decrease pain when I inject insulin?

  • Inject insulin at room temperature. If the insulin has been stored in the refrigerator, remove it 30 minutes before you inject it.

  • Remove all air bubbles from the syringe before the injection.

  • If you clean your skin with an alcohol pad, wait until it has dried before you inject insulin.

  • Relax the muscles at the injection site.

  • Avoid changing the direction of the needle during insertion or removal.

  • Do not reuse disposable needles.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You think you gave yourself too much or not enough insulin.

  • Your injections are very painful.

  • You see blood or clear fluid on your injection site more than once after you inject insulin.

  • You have questions about how to give the injection.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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