Taking insulin for diabetes
Insulin is a hormone that is made by the pancreas. If your pancreas does not make any insulin or does not make enough insulin, your doctor may want you to take injections (shots) of insulin.
Your doctor or diabetes educator will decide what types of insulin you should take, when you should take them and how often. It is not unusual to take more than one type of insulin. Have your doctor or nurse write down this important information for you.
Things to remember about taking insulin
Insulin can be used with a bottle and syringe or a pen device. Ask your diabetes educator to help you find the best technique for you.
- The timing of insulin injections and meals is important to controlling your blood glucose* levels. Ask your doctor or diabetes educator to review your individual plan with you.
- Take your insulin every day, even if you are feeling sick. If you cannot eat normally because you are sick, follow sick day guidelines.
- Do not change the amount of insulin that you take without talking to your doctor or diabetes educator unless you have been trained to do so.
- Ask your diabetes educator or nurse about how to safely dispose of used syringes, needles and lancets.
Keep your medications and supplies in your carry-on luggage.
- You can keep bottles of insulin at room temperature if you use them up in 30 days. Keep extra insulin in the refrigerator. Remember to let refrigerated insulin warm up for about 15 minutes before using it. Throw away all open bottles of insulin after 30 days.
- If you use insulin pens, be aware that room temperature storage guidelines can vary from 7 to 30 days, depending on the insulin type. Check with your diabetes educator or pharmacist.
- Look at the expiration date on each insulin bottle/open before you use it. Throw out insulin if the expiration date has passed.
- Avoid exposing insulin to direct sunlight or freezing temperatures.
- Do not use insulin that is lumpy, sticks to the edges of the bottle/pen or looks discolored.
- When you travel, keep your insulin with you. Do not leave it in a car or other vehicle. It is a good idea to travel with extra supplies (insulin, syringes and test strips).
- Regulations for airline travel may apply. Check with the airline before you fly.
- Keep all medications in their original containers with the pharmacy labels on.
- Talk with your diabetes educator for more travel suggestions.
Time action of different insulins
Measuring and injecting a single type of insulin
- Wash your hands.
- Roll the bottle of cloudy insulin insulin between your hands and turn it upside down to mix.
- Remove the cover from the needle.
- Draw air into the syringe equal to your prescribed dose of ___ units.
- Put the needle into the top of the insulin bottle and shoot air in.
- Turn the bottle and syringe upside down.
- Pull down and push up on the plunger two or three times -- slowly -- to get rid of air bubbles. Look carefully to make sure that all bubbles are gone.
- Draw out your prescribed amount of insulin: ___ units ___________ type.
- Pull the needle out of the bottle.
- Clean the skin at the injection site, if needed.
- Gently pinch skin and inject insulin. Your diabetes educator or doctor will advise you where to inject your insulin (usually the abdomen).
Measuring and injecting two types of insulin
- Wash your hands.
- Roll the cloudy bottle of insulin between your hands and turn it upside down to mix.
- Remove the cover from the needle.
- Draw air into the syringe equal to your prescribed dose ________ (number of units) of cloudy __________________________________ (name) insulin.
- Put the needle into the top of the cloudy bottle and shoot air in. Remove the needle. Do not draw out the insulin yet. Set the bottle aside.
- Draw air into the syringe equal to your prescribed dose of ________ (number of units ) of clear ___________________________________ (name) insulin.
- Put the needle into the top of the clear bottle and shoot air in. Do not remove the needle.
- Turn the clear bottle and syringe upside down.
- Pull down and push up on the plunger two to three times -- slowly -- to get rid of air bubbles. Look to make sure all bubbles are gone.
- Draw out your prescribed amount of clear insulin ________ (number of units).
- Pull the needle out of the clear bottle.
- Put the needle into the cloudy bottle. Do not push the plunger in.
- Draw out the total insulin units prescribed. Clear dose _______ + cloudy dose _______ = total dose (_______). Make sure the amount of insulin in your syringe does not exceed the total units prescribed.
- Pull the needle out of the bottle. Clean the injection site if needed.
- Gently pinch your skin and inject the insulin. Your diabetes educator or doctor will advise you where to inject your insulin (usually the abdomen).
Disposal of sharps: Summary of Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) guidelines
- Insulin syringes and lancets can be managed as regular garbage. They need to be discarded in appropriate containers, not thrown loosely into household garbage.
- You may dispose of household sharps according to these guidelines:
- Place sharps (needles, syringes, lancets) in puncture-resistant containers preferably clear hard plastic such as empty soda or water bottles with a screw top. Commercial sharps containers are available at most pharmacies.
- Do not overfill. Containers should be disposed of when half full.
- Label container "Household Medical Waste" or "Home Sharps." Cap tightly and place in a household garbage container. Do not place with recyclable.
For more information, call the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Infectious Waste Management Program at 651-296-6300 or check the Web site at pca.state.mn.us. Or, check with your local garbage hauler.