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Diabetes in Adults

Do You Need Insulin?

Last modified: 
21/03/2012 - 17:55

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

If you have type 1 diabetes, when the body no longer produces insulin, you probably need to take insulin shots every day. With type 2 diabetes, sometimes the pancreas can't make enough insulin, even with the help of pills. If that happens, you will need to take insulin as well.

Need To Know:

Insulin has to be given as an injection. If you took it like a pill, it would be digested in your stomach and small intestines, just like food.

You can store insulin at room temperature for up to a month. It can also be kept in the refrigerator, but be sure to let it warm up before the shot. Insulin that's too cold may be uncomfortable to inject.

Insulin won't work if it goes below 36 degrees or above 86 degrees. It can also be damaged by sunlight.

  • Don't leave bottles in a car on a hot or cold day.
  • Keep them out of direct sunlight.
  • If you are traveling by plane, keep the bottles with you. Bags you check may get too hot or too cold.

Your doctor or nurse will show you how to draw up insulin into the syringe. Sometimes you may use a single type; sometimes you need to mix two types in the syringe, so they can be given together in one shot. Or you may use an insulin pen, which comes pre-loaded with insulin and ready to use.

Where to Give an Insulin Shot

Insulin is injected into the fat just beneath the skin. Ask your health care team about a good spot, because the injection site may affect how well the insulin is absorbed. The best places are:

  • The abdomen
  • The upper arms
  • The thighs
  • The hips (not the buttocks)

Choose an injection site about half an inch (one finger-width) from the place where the previous shot was given.

How To Information:

How to Take an Insulin Shot

  • Pull the skin tight.
  • Insert the needle as far as it will go. Push it straight in, at right angles to the skin.
  • Let go of the skin.
  • Push in the plunger, then quickly remove the needle.
  • If there is a drop of blood or fluid, apply pressure with a tissue.
  • Make a note in a logbook after each shot. Mark down the time, and the dose. This will be useful if you need to adjust dosage.

Care of Syringes

Syringes can be used more than once, but must never be shared. When the needle starts to get blunt after three or four shots, throw it out. Many states require you to use a special "sharps" container for the disposal of used needles. You can get one from your pharmacy.

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Diabetes in Adults

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.