How to Give Yourself Insulin

How to Give Yourself Insulin
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“Can Do” Attitude

The prevalence of diabetes is growing, with roughly 24 million Americans, or 8 percent of the population, suffering from some form of the disease, according to the American Diabetes Association. Although most type 2 diabetics are able to control their blood sugar levels through diet, exercise and oral medications, type 1 diabetics must receive daily injections of insulin.

If you are one of these people, put yourself in the right mindset and begin to take control. You may be angry, scared, or frustrated but the sooner you begin to take the reins on your own health, the less you will have to worry about complications. Your healthcare physician will begin your education but continue to read and practice on your own.

Supplies Needed

• Alcohol wipes or cotton balls dabbed with rubbing alcohol

• A new sterile insulin syringe with needle

• Container for disposal of used needles (or a commercial sharps container)

• Insulin

Prepare the Insulin

Wash hands with soap and water, rinse, and dry on a clean towel.

Take the plastic cap off the insulin bottle and gently roll the container between your hands to mix. Sometimes it will look cloudy but you do not want to shake it as shaking causes air bubbles. Avoid air bubbles in the syringe since they can reduce the amount of insulin contained in the syringe.

Use an alcohol pad or the dampened cotton ball to wipe the rubber part on the bottle top. Set the bottle down flat.

Take the cap off the needle, and pull the plunger back on the needle to draw in air—draw the same amount of air into the syringe as the amount of insulin you are told to inject. Measure from the top of the plunger.

Stick the needle into the rubber stopper of the insulin bottle and push the plunger down to inject the air into the bottle. Leave the needle inside.

Turn the bottle with the syringe in it upside-down. The insulin should cover the needle.

Now pull back on the plunger to the required number of units.

Check the syringe for air bubbles. If there are some, gently tap the syringe so they rise to the top or push up on the plunger slightly to remove the air bubbles. Recheck to see that you have not lessened the dose, if you have—add more insulin into the syringe.

Pull the needle from the bottle, and recap the syringe.

Let’s Do It

Choose a site as recommended by your doctor, normally the abdomen, upper arm, thigh or buttocks. Rotate the injection sites because the skin can get hard. Stay between 1 and 1/2 inches away from the previous injection site. Avoid injecting near the joints, navel, the middle of the abdomen, the groin or near scars.

Open another alcohol wipe or use the other side of the one you used to wipe the bottle if it is still wet. Apply to skin a circular motion to clean—about two inches in size—and wait until it dries.

Pinch the skin at the injection site between your forefinger and thumb. With the other hand, place the syringe at a 90-degree angle of the site and gently push the needle into the skin all the way to the hub of the needle. Slowly push the plunger all the way down to inject all of the insulin into the fatty tissue.

Relax the skin pinch. Remove the needle after a few seconds, drawing it out the same way you put it in to avoid traumatizing the site. If there is bleeding, apply some pressure with a clean cotton ball. Do not massage the area of injection.

Dispose of the syringe safely and properly. A good disposal vehicle for the used syringes is an empty plastic laundry bottle with lid.

Record the date you first used your insulin bottle on the label. Bottled insulin can lose its effectiveness after 28 days.

Image courtesy of Melissa/flickr


Always store insulin in the refrigerator, as warm temperatures can reduce the effectiveness of the insulin. Write the date on the insulin bottle after first use, as insulin can also lose its effectiveness after 28 days.

Do not reuse, loan or share syringes to reduce the risk of contracting diseases like HIV/AIDS.

Do not try to wipe the needle down with alcohol because it has a silicone coating you will be removing that helps to prevent irritation.

There are some community locations that will take your old used syringes and dispose of them for you. Do not leave as recycling, as there are specific county laws against this. Check with your local health department for instructions.

Resources & Reference

Contact the ADA, American Diabetes Association, for information and support: American Diabetes Association (ADA), ATTN: Center for Information, 1701 North Beauregard Street Alexandria, VA 22311, Phone: 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383), E-mail: [email protected], Web Address:

Health Magazine and media pages on how to give yourself insulin and how to get instructions for usage from your physician.,,aa91119_tp20385,00.html

Here is Camp D (for children and young adults) that explains symptoms and how to regulate your levels: