Giving An Insulin Injection: Things You Should Know

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Treating Diabetes with Insulin

Many patients with diabetes must learn how to give an insulin injection to help control their blood sugar. Insulin may be used to treat all types of diabetes, including type 1, type 2, type 1.5 and gestational diabetes. Some people even find themselves giving insulin to pets who develop diabetes. Though there are several different kinds of insulin, the process for giving an insulin injection from a vial is essentially the same for all insulin types.

Supplies Needed to Give an Insulin Injection

  • insulin vial
  • syringe
  • cotton ball
  • two alcohol swabs or cotton balls soaked with rubbing alcohol
  • bandage (optional)
  • sharps container

Preparing the Insulin

  1. If the insulin is refrigerated, remove the vial from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature. If this is the first use of this vial, remove the plastic cap from the top of the vial.
  2. Wash hands with soap and water.
  3. If the insulin is cloudy, roll the vial between the palms of the hands to mix. Clear insulins do not require mixing.Swab the rubber stopper on the top of the vial with one of the alcohol swabs.
  4. Remove the syringe from the protective packaging.Carefully remove the plastic cap from the needle.Hold the syringe so that the needle is facing up.
  5. Pull the syringe plunger down to the number that is consistent with the insulin dose. For example, if giving 20 units, pull the plunger so that the black line is level with the 20 on the syringe.
  6. Push the needle into the rubber stopper on the insulin vial. This injects air into the vial, making it easier to draw the insulin out.
  7. Keeping the needle in the stopper, turn the syringe and vial so the needle is on facing up with the vial on top. Draw back slowly on the plunger, allowing the insulin to a level just a few units more than the actual dose.Remove the needle from the vial and look for bubbles. If any bubbles are present, tap with the finger to move the bubbles to the top of the syringe. Push on the plunger to remove the bubbles and adjust the insulin level to the proper dose.
  8. Lay the syringe down without touching anything to the needle.

Preparing the Injection Site

Insulin injections are given in the layer of fat that is located just under the skin. The best locations to give an insulin injection are those where loose skin can be pinched up such as the stomach, inner thigh or inside of the arm. The abdomen or stomach is usually the easiest for most people. When using the abdomen, it is best to stay at least one inch away from the belly button as the skin is different in that area and may change the absorption of the insulin. To prepare the insulin site:

  1. Rub the chosen skin with the alcohol swab. Allow to air dry to prevent burning upon injection.
  2. Pinch up the skin between the thumb and forefinger of one hand. Grasp the syringe between the thumb and second finger of the opposite hand with the needle facing down.
  3. With a rapid motion, push the needle straight into the skin at a 90 degree angle. Let go of the pinched skin and slowly press the plunger until all of the insulin is out of the syringe.
  4. Remove the needle from the skin. Dispose of the needle and syringe in the sharps container.
  5. There may be a slight amount of bleeding. If so, press against the injection site with a dry cotton ball until the bleeding stops. A bandage may be place upon the area if desired.
  6. Choose an different site for the next injection. Injecting into the same area can cause scar tissue to build up over time. Rotating the sites prevents this. The next site does not need to be far from the previous site, only about a quarter or half inch away.

Many patients are nervous about giving an insulin injection, but often find it’s much less difficult and painful than they had originally thought. With proper technique and planning, most patients with diabetes can easily give an insulin injection to help manage their blood sugar. Anyone with questions regarding insulin or the proper way to give insulin should contact their prescriber or pharmacist.


Insulin Injection Sites. University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Accessed September 26, 2010.

Giving an Insulin Injection. Accessed September 26, 2010.