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How and where should I inject insulin?

Medically reviewed by Carmen Fookes, BPharm. Last updated on Nov 5, 2021.

Official answer

by Drugs.com

Injecting insulin is not difficult, but it does take a bit of practice. There are three main sites where insulin can be injected:

  • The stomach area except for a 2-inch circle around your navel, and the soft part of your waist, but not anywhere near your spine
  • The top and outer part of your thighs, but not your inner thighs or anywhere close to your knee
  • The outer back of your upper arm where there is a pocket of fatty tissue.

Where do I inject insulin?

Insulin is injected just under the skin. The easiest way to do this is to pinch up a fold of skin using your thumb and forefinger if you are injecting into your stomach or thigh area, or use your knee to create a pinched up area if you are injecting into your upper, outer arm. More detailed instructions are below. Your healthcare professional can also show you how to do it.

Insulin is injected into the less sensitive layer of fatty tissue just under the skin, so it should not hurt too much, but may sting or burn a little. You are not injecting insulin into a muscle or vein.

To keep your skin from thickening or getting lumpy, try not to inject in the exact same spot. Instead, rotate injection places.

Do not share needles, pens, or syringes with others. Do NOT reuse needles.

Where should insulin not be injected?

Insulin should not be injected into a muscle, an area close to the bone, in a vein, in the face or scalp, in the navel, or the hands or feet. It should only be injected into the abdomen, the outer thigh, or the outer upper arm.

How to give insulin in the stomach with an insulin pen or syringe

Injecting insulin into the stomach is easy, and the same method can be used whether you are using a syringe or an insulin pen.

  1. If you want to, wipe the area of skin where you wish to inject the insulin into with an alcohol swab beforehand, and allow it to dry thoroughly.
  2. Pinch the skin around the stomach or waist area (but not within 2 inches of the navel) and hold it with the hand that isn’t holding the needle.
  3. Insert the needle from the syringe all the way into the skin at a 90-degree angle (straight up and down). If you are thin, you may find it better to insert the needle at a 45-degree angle. If you are using an insulin pen, take the cap off the pen and hold the base of the pen firmly against the skin.
  4. Slowly push the plunger of the syringe all the way in, and then leave the needle in the skin for 10 seconds. If you are using a pen, while holding the base against the skin, push down on the injection button. You will hear a loud click. This will insert the needle and start the injection. Keep holding the pen against your skin until you hear a second click in about 5 to 10 seconds.
  5. Remove the syringe or pen. Throw the used syringe away in an approved sharps container and recap the pen for later use.

How to give insulin in the arm with an insulin pen or syringe

Injecting insulin into the upper arm can be a bit tricky to do yourself but by using your knee you can create a pinched-up area of skin to inject into. If you find this difficult, for example, if you don’t have much loose skin on your arms, it may be best to choose a different injection site, such as your stomach or thigh, or ask somebody else to hold up an area of pinched skin and give your injection for you. The same method can be used whether you are using a syringe or an insulin pen.

  1. If you want to, wipe the area of skin where you wish to inject the insulin into with an alcohol swab beforehand, and allow it to dry thoroughly.
  2. Sit on the ground and bend your knee, then allow your upper arm to rest on your knee so that it creates a pinch-up area in the fatty tissue at the back of your arm.
  3. Insert the needle from the syringe all the way into the skin at a 90-degree angle (straight up and down). If you are using an insulin pen, take the cap off the pen and hold the base of the pen firmly against the skin.
  4. Slowly push the plunger of the syringe all the way in, and then leave the needle in the skin for 10 seconds. If you are using a pen, while holding the base against the skin, push down on the injection button. You will hear a loud click. This will insert the needle and start the injection. Keep holding the pen against your skin until you hear a second click in about 5 to 10 seconds.
  5. Remove the syringe or pen. Throw the used syringe away in an approved sharps container and recap the pen for later use.

How to give insulin in the thigh with an insulin pen or syringe

Injecting insulin into the thigh is easy, and the same method can be used whether you are using a syringe or an insulin pen.

  1. If you want to, wipe the area of skin where you wish to inject the insulin into with an alcohol swab beforehand, and allow it to dry thoroughly.
  2. Sit down on a chair or the floor and relax your legs. Pinch up an area of skin on the outer thigh with the hand that isn’t holding the needle.
  3. Insert the needle from the syringe all the way into the skin at a 90-degree angle (straight up and down). If you are thin, you may find it better to insert the needle at a 45-degree angle. If you are using an insulin pen, take the cap off the pen and hold the base of the pen firmly against the skin.
  4. Slowly push the plunger of the syringe all the way in, and then leave the needle in the skin for 10 seconds. If you are using a pen, while holding the base against the skin, push down on the injection button. You will hear a loud click. This will insert the needle and start the injection. Keep holding the pen against your skin until you hear a second click in about 5 to 10 seconds.
  5. Remove the syringe or pen. Throw the used syringe away in an approved sharps container and recap the pen for later use.
  6. Press on the area where you injected for a few seconds. Do not rub.

Where do I inject insulin when I am pregnant?

When you are pregnant, it is best to give insulin into your upper arm or thigh. Follow the instructions above for injecting into your upper arm or thigh.


How do I know how much insulin to give?

How much insulin a person needs depends on their blood sugar testing results, their blood sugar goal number, and their needs. Your doctor or nurse will work out your insulin dose for you, and then tell you how to change the dose if you need to, for example, if you exercise more one day, eat less, or are sick.

When is the best time to inject insulin?

The best time to inject insulin depends on the type of insulin you have been prescribed. Each person’s treatment is different. Some people who use rapid-acting insulin take it just before they eat. Some people who use regular insulin take it 30 to 60 minutes before a meal.

There are 4 main types of insulin:

  • Rapid-acting insulin (such as insulin lispro, insulin aspart, and insulin glulisine) starts working in about 15 minutes. It lasts for 3 to 5 hours
  • Short-acting insulin (such as regular insulin) starts working in 30 to 60 minutes and lasts 5 to 8 hours
  • Intermediate-acting insulin (such as insulin NPH) starts working in 1 to 3 hours and lasts 12 to 16 hours
  • Long-acting insulin (such as insulin glargine and insulin detemir) starts working in about 1 hour and lasts 20 to 26 hours
  • Premixed insulin is a combination of 2 types of insulin (usually a rapid- or short-acting insulin and an intermediate-acting insulin).

How do you inject insulin with a syringe? Step-by-Step.

You may take insulin using a syringe that you fill from a vial. Ask your doctor or nurse to show you how to do it correctly. Follow their directions carefully. Here is a step-by-step summary of how you inject insulin from a vial using a syringe and needle.

  1. Wash your hands.
  2. Take the plastic cover off the new insulin vial. Wipe the top of the bottle with an alcohol swab. It’s best for insulin to be at room temperature before you inject it, this makes it less likely to sting.
  3. Pull back the plunger of the syringe. This draws air into the syringe equal to the dose of insulin that you are taking. Then put the syringe needle through the rubber top of the insulin bottle. Inject air into the bottle by pushing the syringe plunger forward. Then turn the bottle with the needle still attached upside down.
  4. Make sure that the tip of the needle is in the insulin. Pull back on the syringe plunger to draw the correct dose of insulin prescribed by your doctor into the syringe. The dose of insulin is measured in units.
  5. Make sure there are no air bubbles in the syringe before you take the needle out of the insulin bottle because these can cut down the amount of insulin that you get in your injection. If air bubbles are present, hold the syringe and the bottle straight up in one hand, tap the syringe with your other hand and let the air bubbles float to the top. Push on the plunger of the syringe to move the air bubbles back into the insulin bottle. Then withdraw the correct insulin dose by pulling back on the plunger.
  6. If you want to, wipe the area of skin where you wish to inject the insulin into with an alcohol swab beforehand, and allow it to dry thoroughly. Grab a fold of skin and insert the needle into the folded skin at a 90-degree angle (or a 45-degree angle if you are thin).
  7. Slowly push the plunger of the syringe all the way in, and then leave the needle in the skin for 10 seconds
  8. Remove the syringe. Throw the used syringe away in an approved sharps container and put the vial back in the refrigerator for later use.
  9. Press on the area where you injected for a few seconds. Do not rub.

References
  • Example Frase.io doc for content ideas: https://app.frase.io/doc/read/992c3ad5d72b4e5f9a1ac46e19bab418-1
  • Gestational Diabetes: Giving Yourself Insulin Shots Myhealth.Alberta.ca https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/Pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=tp17124
  • Using Lantus? Learn how to inject insulin. Lantus injection. https://www.lantus.com/how-to-use/how-to-inject#

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