Taking insulin: How to give an insulin injection shot

How to use an insulin pen


  • Use the following instructions when injecting insulin for diabetes.
  • Do not mix your diabetes medicine with any other medicines.

Where to give shots

  • Choose an injection area in your abdomen, upper or outer thigh, the back of your upper arms, or your buttocks.
  • Stay two inches away from previous insulin injections or other shots.
  • Stay two inches away from your belly button or from any scar.
  • Do not use sites that are bruised, tender or swollen.
  • Inject the insulin in different areas to prevent scars. The insulin will also absorb into your bloodstream better.
insulin injection sites in abdomen, upper or outer thigh, the back of upper arms, or buttocks

The insulin pen

Your insulin pen has a dial which you set to give the right amount of insulin. You can see the right amount through the dose window.

Insulin pen

How to give shots with an insulin pen

1. Collect all of your supplies.

2. Wash your hands.

3. Clean your skin with an alcohol pad. Let the area air dry.

4. Take the cover off the pen. The insulin is already in the pen.

5. If you are using cloudy insulin, gently roll the pen between your hands to mix the insulin.

6. Wipe off the end of the pen with where the needle will screw on with an alcohol pad.

7. Peel off the paper cover on the pen needle. Screw the needle onto the pen.

Needle pen

Needle tip8. Remove the two covers from the needle.

9. Turn the dose dial to 2 (units).

10. Hold the pen so the needle is pointing up.

11. Push in the dose button at the end of the pen to clear the air out of the pen. (See drawing, at right.) You should see a drop of insulin at the tip of the needle. You may need to repeat steps 9 through 11 until you see the drop of insulin.

12. Turn the dose dial to the number of units of insulin you will inject.

13. Lightly pinch and hold your skin at the site you will be giving your shot. Push the needle straight in. The needle should be all the way into your skin.

Dose dial

14. Using your thumb, push the dose button in all the way. Count to 10.

15. Let go of the pinch of skin.

16. Pull out the needle.

17. Unscrew the needle from the pen. Throw it into a container for needles. Be sure to put the lid on the container.

18. Put the cover back on the pen.

How to care for your insulin pen

  • Insulin pens come five in a box. Store the pens you are not using in the refrigerator.
  • The pen you are using can be kept at room temperature.
  • Do not let the pen you are using either freeze or get warmer than 88 F.
  • Keep the pen you are using out of direct sunlight.
  • Your _________________ insulin pen can be used for _______________ days after you take it out of the refrigerator.
  • Check the expiration date on the box of insulin before you use it. Throw away any insulin that is older than the expiration date.
  • Do not use insulin that is lumpy, sticks to the edges of the pen, or is a color that doesn’t look right.
  • Throw the pen away after the insulin is gone.
  • 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 medicines in their original containers with the pharmacy labels on.
    • Talk with your diabetes educator for more travel suggestions.


Keep your medicines and supplies in your carry-on luggage.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Basic Skills for Living with Diabetes, sixth edition
First Published: 11/27/2006
Last Reviewed: 10/23/2019

When to call your health care provider

Call your health care provider if you have questions about how to use the insulin pen. You may also call the toll-free phone number on the insulin pen box.