Living with Diabetes
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4 Do’s (and 3 Don’ts) of Insulin Injection

Starting a new insulin regimen can be a little intimidating. Here are a few guidelines to help get you more comfortable with your insulin injections for diabetes management.

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If you’ve been newly prescribed insulin, you may be feeling overwhelmed. Where do you inject it? When? How often? How is it stored? Your doctor will have plenty of answers for you, but here are some easy-to-remember things to do—or not do.

Do Know the Different Types of Insulin

2 / 8 Do Know the Different Types of Insulin

Different types of insulin work at different speeds. Rapid-acting starts working about 15 minutes after injection and continues for two to four hours; short-acting reaches the bloodstream in 30 minutes and wears off between three and six hours; it takes about two to four hours for intermediate-acting insulin to start working, and continues to work for 12 to 18 hours. Finally, long-acting insulin takes several hours to reach the bloodstream and remains effective for about 24 hours. 

Don’t Switch Your Injection Site

3 / 8 Don’t Switch Your Injection Site

Choose an injection site and stick with it. The site of the injection will help determine how quickly the insulin reaches your bloodstream. If you inject your insulin in the same place every time, you’ll be able to time your shots more accurately. Shots in the abdomen work the fastest, followed by the arm, then thighs and buttocks. If you inject insulin at different times throughout the day, you can have a different site for each injection, but keep it consistent

Do Vary Where You Insert the Needle

4 / 8 Do Vary Where You Insert the Needle

It’s true you shouldn’t vary which general body part you inject your insulin, but you also shouldn’t inject your insulin in the same specific spot every time. Doing so can create lumps and fatty deposits that can reduce the effectiveness of the insulin. It may be less painful to inject into these lumps, but it makes your insulin less effective. Stay away from bruises, scars and your belly button. 

Don’t Freeze Your Insulin or Store It Somewhere Too Hot

5 / 8 Don’t Freeze Your Insulin or Store It Somewhere Too Hot

You can store some types of opened insulin in the refrigerator for about a month, but some should not be refrigerated after opening. Make sure to check the label and follow instructions. Unopened, they’ll last until the expiration date. Insulin can be kept at room temperature for anywhere from 7 to 30 days. In fact, room temperature insulin may be less painful when injected. Do not freeze insulin, and don’t store it anywhere that temperatures reach more than 86 °F.

Do Relax While Being Injected

6 / 8 Do Relax While Being Injected

Insulin needs to be injected into fat. Be sure to relax the area around the injection site—if you’re tense, the nerves will be more sensitive to pain. Use a short, thin needle to avoid piercing the muscle and causing more pain, and stick to room-temperature insulin, if possible.   

Don’t Shake Up a Cloudy Bottle

7 / 8 Don’t Shake Up a Cloudy Bottle

Some insulin may look cloudy or opaque in the bottle. That means it’s a suspension—a liquid with particles in it. However, if it’s supposed to be a clear solution and it looks cloudy, throw it away. Insulin suspensions need to be rolled around in the palm of the hand in order to mix. Don’t shake vigorously or the insulin can clump together. Throw away any clumpy insulin. 

Do Be Consistent

8 / 8 Do Be Consistent

It’s important to be consistent with the time at which you take your insulin and when you eat. Know how long it takes for your insulin to hit your bloodstream, and time your meals so that your blood sugar rises as your insulin takes effect. Taking your insulin and eating around the same times every day takes some of the guesswork out of managing your condition.