9 Tips for Taking Insulin

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Paige Greenfield Fowler on July 9, 2021
  • portrait of senior woman sitting at breakfast table with cup
    You Have Options With Insulin
    If you need insulin for diabetes, you may wonder what exactly that entails. It can mean many different things. Today, there are more than 20 different types of insulin in the United States, and there are many ways you can use it. Here’s what you need to know.
  • man injecting insulin into side
    1. It Has to Be Injected
    Insulin can’t be swallowed in a pill. In most cases, it must be injected. Otherwise, it would be broken down through digestion, like food. You need to inject insulin into the fat beneath your skin, so it can make its way into your bloodstream. There, it can do its job to help control your blood glucose levels.
  • woman holding out insulin pen for diabetes treatment
    2. It Comes in a Pen
    Although insulin typically needs to be injected, you have options beyond using a syringe. An insulin pen can be more convenient and discreet. Insulin pens have a cartridge that contains insulin. Some insulin pens are pre-filled with insulin. You set the dose you need on the pen and inject the insulin through a needle.
  • insulin pump on table
    3. It Comes in a Pump
    Insulin pumps administer insulin 24 hours a day. The insulin gets into your body through a catheter underneath your skin. Insulin pumps once were used mostly by people with type 1 diabetes, but now they’re also becoming an option for those with type 2.
  • woman using insulin at breakfast table
    4. Timing Is Everything
    Insulin works best when it’s available for your body to use when glucose from your meals and snacks begins to enter your bloodstream. There are different insulin formulations: fast-acting, slow-acting, and combinations. You should take some kinds of insulin, known as mealtime insulin, about 30 minutes before you eat. Talk with your doctor about how to plan your meals and your injection times.
  • man sitting on couch giving self insulin shot
    5. Avoid Skin Irritation
    Insulin injections can cause redness, swelling, or itching in the area where you inject. If it doesn’t go away, talk with your doctor about how to reduce the irritation. Injecting in the same place every time can cause hard lumps or fatty deposits to occur. To prevent this, it’s important to rotate injection sites.
  • diabetic woman self administering insulin shot into abdomen
    6. How to Rotate Sites
    You shouldn’t inject insulin into the exact same site each time, but do inject it into the same general area of your body, at the same time each day. This will provide consistent blood glucose results. For example, inject into your leg before breakfast and your abdomen before dinner, but in a different spot each time.
  • Woman checking glucose levels
    7. Monitor Your Glucose
    It’s important to know how different things—such as exercise and foods—impact your glucose levels. Checking your blood glucose can help you know how much insulin you need. There are many different types of blood glucose meters. Ask your doctor which is best for you.
  • grouping of medicine vials
    8. Take the Chill Off
    Most manufacturers recommend you store insulin in the refrigerator. However, injecting cold insulin can hurt. Instead, store the bottle of insulin you’re currently using at room temperature. If you have multiple bottles, store the rest in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them.
  • closeup of medical syringe with fluid
    9. Minimize Pain
    Here’s how you can make injections less painful: Inject into your skin quickly, and relax your muscles at the injection site. If you’re using topical alcohol, wait until it’s completely evaporated before injecting. Check that there are no air bubbles in the syringe before you use it.
9 Tips for Taking Insulin
  1. Insulin Administration. American Diabetes Association. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/27/suppl_1/s106.full
  2. Information for the Physician: HUMLIN R Regular. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2011/018780s124lbl.pdf
  3. Blood Glucose Meters. Diabetes Forecast, American Diabetes Association. http://main.diabetes.org/dforg/pdfs/2016/2016-cg-meters-chart.pdf
  4. Everything You Need to Know About Blood Glucose Meters. Diabetes Forecast, American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetesforecast.org/2017/mar-apr/blood-glucose-meters-101.html
  5. Insulin and Other Injectables. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/insulin/
  6. Insulin Basics. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/insulin/insulin-basics.ht...
  7. Insulin Pumps. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/insulin/insulin-pumps.htm...
  8. Insulin Routines. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/insulin/insulin-routines....
  9. Insulin Storage and Syringe Safety. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/insulin/insulin-storage-a...
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 9
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.