Giving an insulin injection

Description

To give an insulin injection, you need to fill the right syringe with the right amount of medicine, decide where to give the injection, and know how to give the injection.

Getting Ready

  • Your health care provider will teach you all of these steps, watch you practice, and answer your questions. You may take notes to remember the details. 
  • Know the name and dose of each medicine to give. The type of insulin should match the type of syringe: U-100 or U-500. Because U-500 syringes may be difficult to find, your health care provider may give you instructions for using U-500 insulin with U-100 syringes. 
  • Some types of insulin can be mixed with each other in one syringe -- but not all. Consult with your health care provider or pharmacist about this. 
  • Always use the same brands and types of supplies. Do not use expired insulin. 
  • Insulin should be at room temperature. If you had it in the refrigerator or cooler bag, take it out 30 minutes before the injection. Once you have started using a vial of insulin, it can be kept at room temperature for a month.
  • Gather your supplies: insulin, needles, syringes, alcohol wipes, and a container for used needles and syringes. 

Filling the Syringe - One Type of Insulin

  • Wash your hands with soap and water. Dry them well.
  • Check the insulin bottle label. Make sure it is the right insulin. Make sure it is not expired. 
  • The insulin should not have any clumps on the sides of the bottle. If it does, throw it out and get another bottle. 
  • Intermediate-acting insulin is cloudy, and must be rolled between your hands to mix it. Do not shake the bottle. This can make the insulin clump. 
  • Clear insulin does not need to be mixed. 
  • If the insulin vial has a plastic cover, take it off. Wipe the top of the bottle with an alcohol wipe. Let it dry. Do not blow on it. 
  • Know the dose of insulin you want. Take the cap off the needle, being careful not to touch the needle to keep it sterile. Pull back the plunger of the syringe to put as much air in the syringe as the dose of medicine you want. 
  • Put the needle into and through the rubber top of the insulin bottle. Push the plunger so the air goes into the bottle. 
  • Keep the needle in the bottle and turn the bottle upside down. 
  • With the tip of the needle in the liquid, pull back on the plunger to get the right dose of insulin into the syringe. 
  • Check the syringe for air bubbles. If there are bubbles, hold both the bottle and syringe in one hand, and tap the syringe with your other hand. The bubbles will float to the top. Push the bubbles back into the insulin bottle, then pull back to get the right dose. 
  • When there are no bubbles, take the syringe out of the bottle. Put the syringe down carefully so the needle does not touch anything.

Filling the Syringe - Two Types of Insulin

  • Never mix two types of insulin in one syringe unless you are told to do this. You will also be told which insulin to draw up first. Always do it in that order.
  • Your doctor will tell you how much of each insulin you will need. Add these two numbers together. This is the amount of insulin you should have in the syringe before injecting it.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water. Dry them well.
  • Check the insulin bottle label. Make sure it is the right insulin.
  • The insulin should not have any clumps on the sides of the bottle. If it does, throw it out and get another bottle.
  • Intermediate-acting insulin is cloudy, and must be rolled between your hands to mix it. Do not shake the bottle. This can make the insulin clump.
  • Clear insulin does not need to be mixed.
  • If the vial has a plastic cover, take it off. Wipe the top of the bottle with an alcohol wipe. Let it dry. Do not blow on it.
  • Know the dose of each insulin you want. Take the cap off the needle, being careful not to touch the needle to keep it sterile. Pull back the plunger of the syringe to put as much air in the syringe as the dose of the longer-acting insulin.
  • Put the needle into the rubber top of that insulin bottle. Push the plunger so the air goes into the bottle. Remove the needle from the bottle.
  • Put the air in the short-acting insulin bottle the same way as the previous two steps above.
  • Keep the needle in the short-acting bottle and turn the bottle upside down.
  • With the tip of the needle in the liquid, pull back on the plunger to get the right dose of insulin into the syringe.
  • Check the syringe for air bubbles. If there are bubbles, hold both the bottle and syringe in one hand, and tap the syringe with your other hand. The bubbles will float to the top. Push the bubbles back into the insulin bottle, then pull back to get the right dose.
  • When there are no bubbles, take the syringe out of the bottle. Look at it again to make sure you have the right dose.
  • Put the needle into the rubber top of the longer-acting insulin bottle.
  • Turn the bottle upside down. With the tip of the needle in the liquid, slowly pull back on the plunger to exactly the right dose of long-acting insulin. Do not draw extra insulin in the syringe, since you should not push the mixed insulin back into the bottle.
  • Check the syringe for air bubbles. If there are bubbles, hold both the bottle and syringe in one hand, and tap the syringe with your other hand. The bubbles will float to the top. Remove the needle from the bottle before you push out the air.
  • Make sure you have the right total dose of insulin. Put the syringe down carefully so the needle does not touch anything.

Giving the Injection

Choose where to give the injection. Keep a chart of places you’ve used, so you don’t put the insulin in the same place all the time. Ask your doctor for a chart.

  • Keep your shots 1 inch away from scars and 2 inches away from your navel.
  • Do not put a shot in a spot that is bruised, swollen, or tender. 

The site you choose for the injection should be clean and dry. If your skin is visibly dirty, clean it with soap and water. Do not use an alcohol wipe on your injection site.  

The insulin needs to go into the fat layer under the skin.

  • Pinch the skin and put the needle in at a 45º angle.
  • If your tissues are thick enough, you may be able to inject straight up and down (90º angle). Check with your health care provider before doing this.
  • Push the needle all the way into the skin. Let go of the pinched skin. Inject the insulin slowly and steadily until it is all in.
  • Leave the syringe in place for 5 seconds after injecting.  

Pull the needle out at the same angle it went in. Put the syringe down. There is no need to recap it. If insulin tends to leak from your injection site, press the injection site for a few seconds after the injection. If this happens often, check with your health care provider. 

Place the needle and syringe in a safe hard container. Close the container, and keep it safely away from children and animals. Never reuse needles or syringes.

Storing Your Insulin and Supplies

Ask your pharmacist how to store your insulin so it does not go bad.


Review Date: 11/29/2012
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.
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