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How to Self-administer Insulin

In this section you will learn about injecting insulin.

  • Drawing and Injecting Insulin Using a Vial and Syringe

    Gather the supplies you will need:

    • Alcohol swabs
    • Insulin syringe
    • Bottle of insulin
    Step 1 - injecting insulin

    Wash your hands.

    Step 2 - injecting insulin

    If you are taking cloudy insulin such as NPH, or premixed insulin, roll the bottle between the palms of your hands until it is uniformly cloudy.

    Never shake a bottle of insulin.

    Step 3 - injecting insulin

    Prepare the insulin vial: Wipe the top of the insulin bottle with an alcohol swab.

    Step 4 - injecting insulin

    Remove the needle cap and pull the plunger down to allow air to enter the syringe.

    The air in the syringe should be equal to your dose of insulin.

    Step 5 - injecting insulin

    Push the needle through the center of the rubber top of the insulin bottle.

    Inject air into the insulin bottle by pushing the plunger down until all of the air is in the vial.

    Leave the needle in the insulin bottle. This makes it easier for you to draw the insulin out of the bottle.

    Step 6 - injecting insulin

    Turn the insulin bottle and syringe upside down.

    Pull the plunger back until the tip of the plunger is at the line indicating the number of insulin units you need.

    Step 7 - injecting insulin

    Look for air bubbles in your syringe.

    Air bubbles in the syringe mean that you will get less insulin.

    If you have air bubbles stuck at the walls of the syringe, you can gently tap the side of the syringe to let the air bubble float to the top and push back into the insulin vial.

    Check your syringe to make sure you have your insulin dose and no air bubbles.

    Ask your nurse to show you other ways to get rid of air bubble.

    If needle bends while drawing up the insulin, do not straighten it. Properly dispose of the syringe and start again.

    Pull the needle out of the vial.

    Step 8 - injecting insulin

    Clean a small area of skin with an alcohol swab. Let the alcohol dry completely before you inject. An injection practice pillow is used for illustration in the picture shown above.

    Step 9 - injecting insulin

    Pick up the syringe and hold it like a pencil.

    Do not let the needle touch anything.

    Pinch up your skin.

    Push the needle through the skin.

    Push the insulin in with the plunger.

    Wait 3–5 seconds before pulling out the needle to make sure no insulin leaks out of your skin.

    Pull the needle out of your skin.

    Press your finger or an alcohol swab over the spot you gave your injection.

    Do not rub the injection site.

    Step 10 - injecting insulin

    Dispose your used syringe needle.

  • How to use an insulin pen

    Insulin pens got their name because they are about the size and shape of writing pens. Insulin pens contain cartridges pre-filled with insulin. The pen is dialed for your recommended insulin dose.

    Gather the supplies you will need:

    • Insulin pen
    • Needle
    • Alcohol swab
    Insulin pen: Step 1

    Wash your hands.

    Insulin pen: Step 2

    Remove paper tab and needle covers.

    Get the needle ready.

    Pull the paper tab off of pen needle.

    Remove inner needle cover to expose the needle. Throw inner needle cover away.

    Insulin pen: Step 3

    Get the pen ready.

    Using an alcohol swab, clean the top of the insulin pen.

    Insulin pen: Step 4

    Screw needle onto insulin end of the pen.

    Remove outer needle cover.

    Insulin pen: Step 5

    Remove the needle cover.

    Prime the pen and clear air from the needle. Turn the dose selector knob at the end of the pen to 2 units — watch dose markings change with turning of the knob.

    Insulin pen: Step 6

    Hold the pen with the needle pointing upward.

    Press dose knob up completely while watching for insulin drop or stream to appear.

    The dial should be back at zero after completing the priming.

    Insulin pen: Step 7

    Turn dose knob to dial in your insulin dose. The pen will allow you to receive only the amount that you have set.

    Double-check the dose window to make sure the correct dose is selected.

    Clean a small area of skin with an alcohol swab.

    Let the alcohol dry completely before you inject.

    Insulin pen: Step 8

    An injection practice pillow is used for illustration in the pictures above.

    Inject insulin.

    Curl fingers around the upper end of the pen to hold secure. Poise thumb, above the dose knob.

    Gently pinch up skin with your free hand.

    Quickly insert the needle at a 90° angle. Release the pinch.

    Use our thumb to press down on the dose knob until it stops-the dose window will be back at zero. Leave the needle in place for 5–10 seconds to help prevent insulin from leaking out of the injection site.

    Pull the needle from your skin and press your finger or an alcohol swab over the spot you gave your injection.

    Insulin pen: Step 9

    Utilize the “scoop” method of removing the insulin needle from the pen cartridge.

    Place the pen on a hard surface next to the external pen needle cover.

    Guide the used pen needle into the external pen needle cover.

    Insulin pen: Step 9

    Twist the needle cover onto the pen twisting until the needle is removed from the cartridge.

    Remove needle from cartridge.

    Insulin pen: Step 10

    Dispose your used syringe needle.

  • Common injection sites for insulin

    A person needs to inject insulin into the layer of fat directly under the skin, known as subcutaneous tissue.

    The abdomen is a common site for insulin injections that many people with diabetes choose. The abdomen is easy to access and often less painful than other sites due to protection by fat, a greater surface area and less muscle. The site should be between two inches between the waist and the hip bones and two inches away from the belly button. Do not inject near any scar tissue.

    Injections sites

    Daily, the insulin injection sites should be rotated so that no one site is injected frequently. A person’s skin may become thickened over time, affecting the body’s ability to absorb the insulin.

    A picture of options for daily rotation of insulin injection sites of the abdomen is depicted below. Additional areas of the body where insulin may be injected include the thighs, buttocks and arms as shown in the illustration. Avoid injecting into the same site over and over. Speak to your health provider for any questions related to insulin injections.

    Injection sites - stomach area
  • How to Properly Dispose Used Syringe Needles

    syringe disposal

    Do not attempt to recap a used syringe needle.

    Dispose of the used syringe into a hard plastic container with a screw-on lid or lid that seals tightly.

    Dispose of the filled container in a secure sharps disposal box.

    For more information, visit these websites: