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How To Give An Insulin Injection

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Updated August 31, 2006

A person with Type 1 diabetes requires daily doses of insulin to keep blood glucose levels from going too high. This means learning to inject the insulin with a small needle into specific sites on the body. The technique is usually taught by your healthcare professional or diabetes educator, who makes sure that you administer the insulin correctly. Sometimes people with Type 2 will also need insulin injections to control their blood glucose. Follow this "how to" to refresh your technique.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: 15-20 minutes at first, less time is needed when proficiency is achieved.

Here's How:

  1. Gather your supplies together: an insulin syringe, your bottle (or bottles, if you're mixing two insulins) of insulin, an alcohol wipe. For ease in locating supplies, always keep your supplies in a small container or bag in the same place. Insulin should be refrigerated.
  2. Check the insulin bottle, make sure it is the right insulin. When you first open an insulin bottle, write the date on it. When the bottle is 30 days old, you should discard whatever insulin is left. It loses it's potency after 30 days.
  3. Wash your hands with soap and water. Make sure to dry them thoroughly. Take the bottle of insulin between your hands and roll it gently back and forth. This is especially important for cloudy insulins to thoroughly mix the contents. Don't shake an insulin bottle. The insulin is fragile and could be damaged by rough handling.
  4. Open an alcohol wipe and swab the top of the insulin bottle. If the bottle has not been opened yet, remove the protective cover. It usually will pop off with a little upward pressure.
  5. Pick up your syringe in one hand. With the other hand, grasp the needle cap firmly between your thumb and forefinger. Pull the cap straight off, without touching the needle.
  6. Note how many units of insulin you'll be injecting. Pull the plunger of the syringe back and draw air into the syringe to the same amount of units. Insert the needle into the rubber stopper of the insulin bottle and push the plunger to inject the air into the bottle. This helps you to draw the insulin out easier because the air displaces the volume of the insulin and equalizes the pressure in the bottle.
  7. Leave the needle in the bottle, turn the bottle upside down and make sure the tip of the needle is below the surface of the insulin. Pull back again on the plunger to fill the syringe to slightly more than the number of units needed.
  8. If there are air bubbles trapped in the syringe, tap it gently with a fingernail to dislodge the bubbles and make the float to the top. Push the air bubbles back into the bottle and pull back again to fill the syringe to the correct amount of insulin. Take the needle out of the bottle.
  9. Choose the site of the injection. Follow the diagram given to you by your healthcare professional, making sure to rotate the site, so that you're not always using the same spot. The skin can become tough and uneven if you only use one area, so make sure you rotate where you give the injection.
  10. Open another alcohol wipe or use the one you used on the insulin bottle if it is not dry yet. Clean the site in a circular motion. Let the skin dry before you proceed. This only takes a minute or two. Try to relax the muscles around the site area. The injection won't be as painful if you relax.
  11. Now, take the skin between your forefinger and thumb and pinch gently. With the other hand, take the syringe and make the needle is at a 90 degree angle with the site. (If you are thin or this injection is for a child, a 45 degree angle to the site is preferred). Gently push the needle into the skin all the way to the hub of the needle. Push the plunger all the way in to inject all of the insulin into the fatty tissue.
  12. After a few seconds take out the needle. Make sure you draw it out at the same angle that you put it in so the site is not traumatized. If the site is bleeding, you can apply pressure on the site with the alcohol wipe. It should stop bleeding in a few seconds.
  13. Carefully place the cap back on the needle being careful not to stick yourself. Dispose of the syringe in a sharps container or use an empty laundry detergent bottle with a screwtop lid. There are many community drop off points that will take your properly stored used syringes. Usually pharmacies or hospitals will be happy to dispose of them for you.
  14. Put the insulin back in the fridge, and put all your supplies in your specially designated placem for the next time. And congratulations on a job well done.

Tips:

  1. Some people reuse their syringes to cut down on costs, but syringe manufacturers do not recommend reusing them. Once you use a syringe, it is not sterile anymore and you take the risk of skin infections from using a contaminated needle. It is also not wise to use alcohol to clean the used needle, because this strips the silicone coating off the needle, making it more irritating to the site.
  2. Never share syringes. Diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis are spread through blood to blood contact and sharing syringes places you at risk.
  3. Remember to check your blood sugar 1 to 2 hours after your injection, or sooner if you feel any signs or symptoms of hypoglycemia.

What You Need

  • Bottle or bottles of insulin
  • Syringe
  • Alcohol wipe

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