How to Give an Insulin Injection with a Syringe
Some form of insulin treatment is a necessity for anyone living with Type 1 diabetes and for millions living with Type 2 diabetes. Insulin is a hormone that allows glucose (sugar) in the blood to enter the body’s cells and be used as energy. When the body is unable to produce enough insulin on its own, blood sugar levels begin to rise inhibiting the body’s ability to function properly, which can lead to a host of diabetic complications, including cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney disease, eye issues, and diabetic ketoacidosis, an acute condition that can result in a diabetic coma and even death.
Needless to say, staying on top of blood sugar levels and insulin treatment is a vital part of any diabetes health plan. There are a variety of ways to administer insulin, including pen needles and insulin pumps with infusion sets. However, many people with diabetes still prefer the ease and affordability of using an insulin syringe to administer their daily dosage.
This post will touch upon the proper ways to give yourself an insulin injection using a syringe and needle. As with any process or procedure regarding your diabetes care plan, it is important to discuss insulin treatment with your diabetes physician and care team to determine the dosage and delivery method that works best for you.
Common Insulin Injection Sites
Insulin injections can be given in different parts of the body. In fact, if you are taking insulin daily or more than once a day, your doctor will likely recommend altering injection sites for your comfort and in order to avoid a condition called lipodystrophy, in which the fat under the skin either builds up or breaks down causing lumps or indentations that can interfere with proper insulin absorption. Never inject into a scar, mole, bruise or wound as this may also interfere with absorption and can cause other complications.
There are four primary areas on the body where you can administer insulin using a syringe. These include:
This is the site recommended for most people as insulin is absorbed rapidly and predictably from the abdomen. Additionally, this is a very accessible part of the body to reach making it easier to administer the injection properly and safely. Also, thanks to the size of the area, you can alter injection sites around the abdomen. The one caveat is to make sure you choose an injection site that’s at least two inches from your belly button.
The top and outer areas of the thigh present other possible injection sites. The recommended injection area is usually somewhere at least four inches lower than the top of the leg and four inches above the knee.
The fatty tissue on the back of the arm, between the shoulder and the elbow, is another common insulin injection site.
It’s possible to inject insulin into the fatty tissue of the buttocks, however, this is not often recommended for injections that are self-administered due to the added difficulty of reaching the area and visually monitoring the injection.
Preparing for Your Insulin Injection
First and foremost, it’s important to make sure you have everything ready to administer your insulin injection. Gather the supplies you need which include:
- Insulin Vial (or vials if you are mixing insulin)
- Sterile insulin syringe with attached needle
- Alcohol swabs or wipes
- A “sharps container” to dispose of used syringe. You can also use a coffee can or any metal container than can be securely sealed.
Many people with diabetes find it makes life easier to store everything they need for their daily injections in a handy diabetic carrying case that can usually be found for under $15 at leading diabetic supply companies.
Preparing Insulin Syringes
The overall process is relatively simple. However, there are some key differences between those who are injecting a single type of insulin and those whose diabetes plan requires them to mix an intermediate or long-acting insulin with a short-acting insulin in a single injection. We detail both processes in the following step-by-step insulin injection procedures.
First Wash Your Hands
You got your supplies in order during pre-prep, but before getting started with the injection process, it’s important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends lathering soap for a good 20 seconds before rinsing. Don’t rush it. Washing is key to avoiding infections and other complications.
Follow the following five steps if you’ve been prescribed only one type of insulin.
Gently roll the vial of insulin between your hands two or three times to mix the insulin. Do not shake the bottle as this can cause air bubbles (which are harmless but can affect the amount of insulin you eventually draw into the syringe). Clean the rubber stopper with an alcohol swab and set the vial aside.
Take your sterile syringe, remove the plastic cap from the needle, and hold it upright (with the needle pointing up). Gently pull the plunger down to draw air into the syringe equivalent to the units of insulin you’re prescribed to inject.
Place your insulin vial on a flat surface and push the syringe needle through the rubber stopper. Gently push down on the syringe plunger to inject the air you drew into the syringe into the insulin vial. This will allow the insulin to be drawn into the syringe more easily.
Leaving the syringe needle in the insulin vial, turn the insulin vial upside down and gently draw back the syringe plunger taking in slightly more than your prescribed units of insulin.
Gently tap the syringe to move any air bubbles to the top of the needle. Push any air bubbles back into the vial. Double check to make sure you have the prescribed number of units in the syringe and then remove the needle from the rubber stopper. Your syringe is now properly prepared for an injection.
Follow the following 10 steps if you’re mixing two types of insulin, long-acting, or “cloudy” and rapid-acting or “clear”.
Gently roll both vials of insulin (clear and cloudy) between your hands two or three times to mix the insulin. Make sure you roll the cloudy insulin until all the white powder within is dissolved Never shake the vials. Clean the rubber stoppers with an alcohol swab and set the vials aside.
Take your sterile syringe, remove the plastic cap from the needle, and hold it upright (with the needle pointing up). Gently pull the plunger down to draw air into the syringe equal to the number of units of cloudy insulin (long acting) to be administered.
Place your cloudy insulin vial on a flat surface and push the syringe needle through the rubber stopper. Gently push down on the syringe plunger to release the air you drew into the syringe into the cloudy insulin vial. Afterwards, gently remove the needle from the vial’s rubber stopper.
Now pull the plunger of the same syringe back and draw in air equivalent to the number of clear insulin units to be administered.
Gently push the needle of the syringe through the robber stopper on the clear insulin vial. Depress the plunger to release the air previously drawn into the vial. This time leave the needle in place. Important: The next step is to draw clear insulin into the syringe. The order in which you draw clear and cloudy insulin is critical. Clear insulin goes first!
Leaving the syringe needle in the clear insulin vial, turn the vial upside down and gently draw back the syringe plunger taking in slightly more than your prescribed units of clear insulin.
Gently tap the syringe to move any air bubbles to the top of the needle. Push any air bubbles back into the vial. Double check to make sure you have the prescribed number of units of clear insulin in the syringe.
Gently remove the syringe from the clear insulin vial with the proper dosage in place.
Holding the sides of the syringe, now insert the needle through the rubber stopper on the cloudy insulin vial. Be careful not to depress the plunger as this will release clear insulin into the cloudy vial compromising both your injection and the entire vial of cloudy insulin.
Leaving the syringe needle in the cloudy insulin vial, turn the vial upside down and slowly draw back the syringe plunger taking in the correct number of units of cloudy insulin. Gently remove the needle. Your syringe is now properly mixed and prepared for injection.
Right about now, you might be wondering what type and size insulin syringe to choose and what needle gauge and length is right for you. This is a very individual decision, and it depends on your prescribed insulin dosage, specific body type and unique diabetes condition. Your diabetes physician and care team will sit down with you to discuss all aspects of your individual insulin treatment program, including choosing the right syringe and needle size.
Once you’ve got it figured out, you’ll find a wide selection of insulin syringes from leading manufacturers like Easy Comfort and Clever Choice at prices most pharmacies and suppliers can’t match by shopping online at Diabetic Warehouse.
How to Take an Insulin Injection
- Prepare the area where you plan on administering the injection (abdomen, arm, thigh) by cleansing it with an alcohol swab or a cotton ball dipped in alcohol.
- Grab a fold of skin and gently pinch it between your thumb and finger.
- Making sure the needle is straight and not at an angle, insert it into the fold of skin you are pinching without depressing the plunger. Then gently release the fold of skin.
- Press down on the plunger until you can see the insulin is gone from the syringe. Keep the needle in place for about five seconds after injecting.
- Gently pull the needle out and press your thumb over the injection site for about 10 seconds to prevent any insulin from leaking at the injection site.
- Discard your used syringe in your “sharps container” or other safe disposal container and dispose of as directed by your local waste authority. Never throw your syringes directly into the household garbage.
Insulin Injection Complications
The good news is problems with insulin injections are rare. Most people with diabetes have very few issues with self-administering. However, if you feel or see hard lumps or depressions appearing at your injection sites; notice blood or any type of clear liquid at the injection site on more than one occasion after giving yourself an injection; or suddenly find that injections are becoming more painful, contact your diabetes physician immediately. Additionally, if you think you may have given yourself the wrong dosage or mixed the wrong amounts of clear and cloudy insulin, it’s important that you contact your diabetic physician.
We hope you found this post helpful. At diabetic warehouse, we’re committed to keeping you informed about diabetes care and treatment. We’re also proud to offer great prices on all the diabetic supplies you need – insulin syringes, pen needles, glucose meters, test strips, continuous glucose monitoring systems, and more – from leading manufacturers, including Easy Comfort, Accu-Chek, One Touch, True Metrix and Medtronic. We invite you to shop and save on our entire selection at Diabetic Warehouse.
Diabetic Warehouse is a trusted supplier of diabetes care products and accessories. For more information and to explore a complete range of products, including test strips, syringes and needles, glucose monitoring systems, and more, visit www.diabeticwarehouse.org.
This was great. First time injecting myself with insulin and it went smooth. Thank you for the help.