Drawing Up and Giving Insulin
Drawing Up One Type of Insulin
Some people draw up insulin from a vial. You will use a syringe to do this which already has a needle attached. Insulin is measured in units.
- Wash your hands.
- If you have a cloudy-looking insulin, roll the vial between your hands until the entire mixture looks cloudy.
- Clean the top of the vial with an alcohol wipe.
- To draw air into the syringe, pull the plunger out to the number of units needed for your dose.
- Remove the needle cover. Push the needle through the rubber top of the insulin vial. Push the plunger down to inject air into the vial.
- Turn the bottle upside down. To withdraw the insulin, pull down the plunger.
7. Check for air bubbles before taking the needle out of the vial. Be sure the syringe contains the correct number of units.
8. You are now ready to give the injection.
Drawing Up Two Types of Insulin
If you need two types of insulin at the same time of day and prefer to inject once, you may be able to combine them in one syringe.
**This is not always safe; be sure to ask your health care team if it makes sense for you. Please ask for further instruction but the key points are below.
- Inject air into both vials before drawing up insulin.
- Always draw up your clear insulin before the cloudy insulin.
- If you draw too much cloudy insulin, discard the syringe and start again.
Using Pens or Devices
Insulin and other medicines can be given using devices that are shaped like pens. A pen allows you to “draw up” your dose by turning a dial to the amount you need. This is very useful for those who struggle to see the lines on syringes or for those who have a hard time using both hands to hold the syringe and vial.
Instead of using syringes to inject, you will need pen needles. These needles are twisted onto the tip of the pen before each use. After one use, the needle should be discarded in a “Sharps Box” or other hard plastic container. Expiration of insulin pens varies. Discuss this with your pharmacist or nurse.
- Be sure to find out if your insurance will cover the cost of these pens.
Insulin injections are given into fatty tissue because it is free from large blood vessels and nerves. The areas of fatty tissue are shaded in the diagram below.
Options for Injection Sites
Abdomen: Do not use the area within one inch around your navel. Avoid using the belt line area, as rubbing may irritate the injection site. Avoid surgical scars.
Arms and Thighs: Use middle and outer areas where you can pinch up tissue. If you are using the back of your upper arm, it is hard to pinch up the tissue and inject insulin yourself. You can try pinching up the tissue by placing your arm over the back of a chair or brace it against a wall.
Buttocks: Use any area where you can pinch up tissue. This site is not often used since it’s harder to give yourself a shot here.
It is best to rotate your injection sites to prevent tissue damage. If tissue is damaged, the insulin may not absorb as well. This may make it harder to control your blood sugars. Some people keep a record of where their last shot was given to avoid these problems. If you choose one site, like the abdomen only, be sure to rotate shots within that site.
Steps to Inject Insulin
1. Wash hands well with soap and water. Be sure that the area where you will give the shot is also clean. Find a comfortable position so you can clearly see where you will give the shot. Avoid any scars, bruises, or swollen areas.
2. Pull the cap straight off of the needle using care to avoid poking yourself. Keep the needle sterile once you have removed the cap; do not set the needle down or touch the needle. Hold the syringe like a pencil.
3. With the other hand, gently pinch the clean spot between your thumb and fingers to make a fold in the skin. Be sure to hold the skin fold until the injection is complete.
4. Insert the needle into the skin fold, holding the syringe at a 90° angle. If you have very little fatty tissue or are using longer needles, you may need to inject at a 45° angle. (See pictures below.) Ask your health care team what is best for you.
5. Place your pointer finger on the syringe plunger. Press down until all of the insulin has been pushed out and into the fatty tissue.
6. Remove the needle by gently and quickly pulling it out of the skin fold. You can now let go of the skin fold. Do not rub the site after you are finished. Rubbing may cause bruising or affect how the insulin is absorbed.
7. Drop the used syringe or pen needle - needle first - into the “Sharps Box” or other hard plastic container. Close the lid and move the box out of the reach of children.
The Spanish version of this Health Facts for You is #6218.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 10/25/2010
Copyright © 04/16/2010 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4315
Print Health Fact For You