Thumbnail image of: Diabetes Action Plan: Illustration, page 1
Thumbnail image of: Diabetes Action Plan: Illustration, page 2
Thumbnail image of: Diabetes, Injection Rotation Chart: Illustration
Thumbnail image of: Subcutaneous Shot, How to Give: Illustration

Diabetes: Giving Insulin Shots

To give yourself insulin shots you will need to learn:

  • What kind or kinds of insulin you will be using
  • What dosage of insulin you need
  • When you should give yourself shots
  • Where and how to inject the insulin
  • How to store the insulin

If you use a prefilled pen, the insulin is not drawn from one container into another. The pen has a little plunger inside. When you set the dose on your pen, you are setting how far forward this plunger will move. This sets the amount of insulin that you get with each dose.

If you use a syringe, you also need to learn:

  • What kind of syringe to use
  • How to use the syringe
  • What to do with used needles and syringes

Syringes come in different needle widths and lengths. Insulin syringes have thin, short needles that are easy to insert.

The amount of insulin a syringe can hold varies. Insulin is measured in units. Syringes have markings on the side that measure the units. Ask your pharmacist or healthcare provider if you have questions about needles, syringes, insulin, or dosage.

Your healthcare provider will tell you what kind of insulin to use, the dosage, and when you should give yourself a shot. Carry a written list of all medicine you take in your wallet, including the type and dose of insulin you use.

Where should I inject the insulin?

Insulin is injected into the fat layer beneath the skin. The best places to give insulin are the belly, upper arms, thighs, and buttocks. There are different spots in each area where you can give the shot. You should change where you give the shots each time. For example, there might be 6 different places on the thigh that you can use. This way you can have a shot in over 50 different spots before having to use the same place again. This is called rotating the shots. Rotating injection sites helps prevent irritation and swelling.

  • Do not give a shot into an area that is swollen or where there is a rash or sore.
  • Do not give a shot just before a bath, shower, or hot tub. The warm water will draw more blood to the skin, causing the insulin to be absorbed more quickly. This can cause a serious low blood sugar reaction.
  • Insulin is absorbed more quickly from the belly than from the arm and more quickly from the arm than from the thigh or buttock. This usually does not cause problems. If you have low blood sugar when you use some sites, you may want to use the belly or arm in the morning, and the thigh or buttock in the evening.
  • If you inject insulin into an arm or leg that you will be using a lot during exercise, your body may absorb the insulin too fast. For example, if you are going to run, don’t inject insulin into your leg. If you are going to play tennis, avoid injecting into your tennis arm.

How do I inject the insulin?

It is important to learn the right way to give an insulin shot. Your healthcare provider or diabetes educator will show you the correct way to inject insulin.

  • Always wash your hands with soap and water before you give an insulin shot.
  • Keep the insulin shots 1 inch away from a scar or the belly button. Do not give an insulin shot into a spot that is bruised, swollen, or tender.
  • If you don’t give the shot deeply enough, it can cause a lump, pain, or red spot.
  • If you give the shot too deep into the muscle it may be more painful and cause the insulin to be absorbed too quickly.
  • You need to avoid injecting insulin into a large vein or artery. This is very unlikely if you are giving shots in the recommended sites. If you do inject insulin into a large vein or artery, the effect of the insulin will last just minutes instead of hours.
  • Don’t worry about accidentally injecting a small bubble of air. It is not harmful.

How do I store the insulin?

It is best to store insulin in the refrigerator and warm it to room temperature before you use it. You can warm it up by holding a filled syringe between your hands for a minute or two. If you warm the insulin to room temperature, it’s less likely to sting or cause red spots on the skin.

If insulin is stored at room temperature for more than 28 days, it may not be good. Insulin will spoil if it gets above 90°F (32.2°C) or if it freezes. Insulin bottles and pens should not be left in a car in the summer or winter. Ask your pharmacist how your insulin should be stored.

Watch your blood sugar levels carefully when the insulin bottle is almost empty. If your blood sugar starts to be unusually high or low, the last bit of insulin should be thrown out. Also throw insulin away if:

  • Clumps of intermediate-acting insulin are sticking to the side of the bottle.
  • Clear, rapid-acting insulin looks cloudy.
  • The insulin is past the expiration date.
  • An open bottle has been stored at room temperature for over 28 days.
  • An open bottle has been stored in the refrigerator for 3 or more months.

Can I reuse syringes?

Plastic syringes are recommended for one-time use only. If for some reason you need to reuse a syringe, after giving a shot, push the plunger up and down to get rid of any insulin left in the needle. Wipe the needle off with an alcohol swab. Put the cap over the needle and store the syringe and needle in the refrigerator until the next time you need to use it.

Needles of syringes that are reused several times may get dull from going through the rubber stopper on the insulin bottle over and over. A dull needle may cause more damage to your skin and tissues. There is also a risk of infection if you reuse syringes.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2015-01-07
Last reviewed: 2015-01-05
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

Patient Portal

myTuftsMed is our new online patient portal that provides you with access to your medical information in one place. MyTuftsMed can be accessed online or from your mobile device providing a convenient way to manage your health care needs from wherever you are.

With myTuftsMed, you can:

  1. View your health information including your medications, test results, scheduled appointments, medical bills even if you have multiple doctors in different locations.
  2. Make appointments at your convenience, complete pre-visit forms and medical questionnaires and find care or an emergency room.
  3. Connect with a doctor no matter where you are.
  4. Keep track of your children’s and family members’ medical care, view upcoming appointments, book visits and review test results.
  5. Check in on family members who need extra help, all from your private account.


Your privacy is important to us. Learn more about ourwebsite privacy policy. X