Injecting Insulin

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When people are diagnosed with diabetes, one of the first questions they always ask themselves is, “What can I eat now?” Making healthy changes to your diet to best manage your diabetes doesn’t have to be difficult, and with a few simple tips, you’ll be on your way to feeling confident about your food choices In this video, hosted by certified diabetes educator and registered dietitian Alison Massey, get five tips for injecting insulin with a syringe or insulin pen.

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Injecting Insulin

Hi, I’m Alison Massey, Registered Dietician, Certified Diabetes Educator and Contributor to Diabetes Self-Management Magazine.

The day your healthcare provider recommends that you take insulin injections can be overwhelming. Your healthcare provider or diabetes educator can help teach you the proper technique to give yourself an insulin injection.

Insulin injections typically are given one of two forms. Either using a syringe with a vial of insulin or using a prefilled insulin pen. Here are a few tips with taking insulin with a syringe or insulin pen.

Insulin Injection Tips

Tip #1.
Insulin injections are always given in the fatty tissue just under the skin. Appropriate insulin injection sites include the abdomen, the top and upper outer thighs, and the upper outer arm area. You want to rotate your injection site. Meaning systematically switching injection sites from one spot on your body to another. Be sure to avoid areas that have scar tissue or moles. Also, it’s a good idea to stay two inches away from your belly button.

Tip #2.

You’ll always want to use a new syringe or insulin pen needle for each injection. Never share your insulin syringe or insulin pen with others.

Tip #3.
Regardless of whether or not you are taking insulin with a syringe or an insulin pen, it’s always a good idea to start by washing your hands. You’ll also want to make sure to have alcohol swabs to clean the site on which you plan to inject the insulin.

Tip #4.

Understand how the insulin you are taking works in the body. There are different types of insulin. Some are long acting, which are typically taken once or twice daily and some are rapid acting or mealtime insulin, which are typically taken at least 15 minutes before eating a meal. Having an understanding of the type of insulin you are taking, the time of day it should be taken, and how long it works in the body, is just as important as knowing the dose your doctor has prescribed.

Tip #5.

When you are taking insulin, you are at risk for hypoglycemia or low blood glucose levels. For most people this is considered to be a reading of less than 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl). Some signs and symptoms that blood glucose levels might be too low include feeling shaky, sweaty, and/or anxious. A rapid heartbeat, irritability, lightheadedness and hunger may be other symptoms you experience.

Fast-Acting Carbohydrates

It is important to carry a fast-acting carbohydrate with you to treat low blood glucose level when you are taking insulin. It is recommended that you take at least 15 grams of fast acting carbohydrate to help elevate your blood glucose levels when you are experiencing hypoglycemia. Examples of 15 grams of carbohydrates include 4 to 5 glucose tablets, a glucose gel pack or half a cup of juice or regular, not diet, soda. You’ll want to make sure to recheck your blood glucose level at least 15 minutes after you have treated your low to make sure it is elevated to a healthy range.

It’s important to be well informed before starting any diabetes medication including insulin. Talk to your healthcare provider or certified diabetes educator if you need extra help before starting on insulin injections.

For more information on taking insulin and other diabetes self-management tips, visit and subscribe to Diabetes Self-Management Magazine

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