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Insulin Injections

Kids with type 1 diabetes and some kids with type 2 diabetes need to take insulin. Most kids who take insulin get injections using a syringe or a pre-filled pen. Some kids use an insulin pump instead. If your child takes injections, their diabetes care team will teach you and your child everything you need to know.

Why Do Some People Need to Take Insulin?

Insulin is a hormone that helps sugar (glucose) get into all the cells in the body for energy. Insulin is made in the pancreas and released into the blood when the glucose level goes up. Without insulin, the sugar in blood would get too high. 

People with type 1 diabetes and some people with type 2 diabetes need to get insulin by injection or a pump every day. This is because either their pancreas can’t make insulin (type 1 diabetes) or their cells don’t respond to the insulin it does make (type 2 diabetes).

People who take insulin need to check their sugars often. You can test throughout the day with a blood glucose monitor or use a continuous glucose monitor. A rise in glucose levels could be a sign that your child is not getting enough insulin. This can lead to problems like hyperglycemia and ketone production, which could become diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) if it’s not recognized and treated. Staying on top of sugar levels can help prevent problems now and in the future.

When Should My Child Take Insulin?

The diabetes care team will make a schedule, so you’ll know exactly when to give your child insulin. Following the schedule will help keep their blood sugars steady. Soon the schedule will become part of your daily routine.

Your child will need their insulin and testing supplies with them all the time. Create a diabetes to-go kit so that when you go out, you know your child has all needed supplies.

How Should We Prepare for an Insulin Injection?

Before giving an insulin injection, know the basics so you can set up and do it safely and with confidence:

  • Decide where to inject. The belly, legs, upper arms, buttocks, and hips are good places to inject insulin. It is important to rotate injection sites to prevent lumpiness under the skin.
  • Use a fresh needle with each dose. This is also the case if you use a syringe or a pen.
  • Check the bottle or pen. Before giving an injection, always make sure you're giving the right type of insulin and that it hasn't expired. Inspect the bottle for any changes to the insulin — for example, don't use insulin that looks cloudy or has anything floating in it.
  • If you dose with a syringe and bottle of insulin, insert the needle on a syringe into the bottle to draw up the right amount of insulin. If your child takes two kinds of insulin at the same time, often you can give them both with one injection. Ask your diabetes team to make sure.
  • If you dose with a pre-filled insulin pen, make sure to prime the pen first, then turn the dial on it to the correct dose before injecting it. When the pen is empty, you'll need a new one because you can’t refill it. An insulin pen contains just one type of insulin. So, if your child uses pre-filled pens and needs two types of insulin, they will need two separate injections.

How Do We Store Insulin Safely?

Insulin is sensitive to heat and cold, so it needs to be cared for properly. Follow these safety tips:

  • Store unopened bottles of insulin in the refrigerator. Store open bottles in the refrigerator or at room temperature.
  • In warm weather, keep the bottles cool. Don’t leave them in direct sunlight or in a car on a hot day. Use a cooler or insulated lunch bag when you’re traveling or outdoors.
  • Don’t let insulin freeze. If it freezes by accident, throw it away.
  • Check expiration dates on bottles and pens. If the date has passed, throw it away. The bottle or package insert will tell you how long a bottle can be kept after it's opened.
  • For pre-filled pens, check the label or package insert to find out how to care for them. If you have questions, ask the care team or your pharmacist.

How Do We Dispose of Sharps?

Throw away used syringes and needles carefully. Always put them in a sharps container or other leakproof, sturdy plastic container and close the lid tightly. If you have any questions, ask the care team for advice.

Reviewed by: Tal Grunwald, MD
Date Reviewed: Mar 31, 2022

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