I’m just starting out on insulin – who can help me?
Your diabetes care team is invaluable in this situation. They will assist you in…
· Making insulin a part of your day-to-day life by helping you figure out which kind of insulin you should be taking, and how often.
· They will also help you choose an insulin delivery device that’s right for you, and teach you how to use it properly and safely.
· And, if you’re experiencing undue pain or distress over injecting, they can help with that, too.
So don’t be afraid to hit them up for advice!
Which kinds of insulin are available?
Insulin is most often given as basal (in one injection to allow your body to use insulin between meals) and bolus doses (usually given before a meal).
Insulin comes in five different forms – your doctors will help you work out which is best for you:
1. Fast acting, such as NovoRapid, Humalog or Apidra, starts to work between one and 20 minutes after being administered. It lasts from three to five hours. You must eat immediately after an injection.
2. Short acting, such as Actrapid, works within half an hour, so you need to inject half an hour before eating. Its effect lasts for six to eight hours.
3. Intermediate acting, such as Protaphane and Humulin, contains chemicals such as zinc to delay its effects. It begins to work about 90 minutes after an injection and lasts for 16 to 24 hours.
4. Mixed, such as Humalog Mix, NovoMix and Mixtard, consists of a combination of either fast-acting or short-acting insulin and intermediate-acting insulin. It can be taken before a meal to provide a stable level of insulin for some time after eating.
5. Long acting, such as Lantus and Levemir, is injected once or twice a day and lasts for up to 24 hours. You’ll need to supplement long-acting insulin with short or fast-acting insulin if you have type 1 diabetes. Have type 2? You may need to supplement this with short or fast-acting insulin, depending on your care team’s advice.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Insulin absorption can be accelerated by a variety of factors. These include high temperatures (for example, after having a shower), injecting directly into muscle, injecting into areas such as the thighs that are constantly moving, or massaging the injection site.
Insulin absorption might be delayed by factors such as smoking, using cold insulin, or over-using the same injection site.
How is insulin delivered?
Insulin can be injected by an insulin syringe, an insulin pen, or via an insulin pump. Your care team will help you select the method that best suits you and your lifestyle.
Is there anything I should keep in mind when injecting insulin?
Mastering your injection technique is about 1% natural talent… and 99% practice, practice, practice! The idea is to get the insulin through the skin and into the fatty tissue underneath, known as the subcutaneous layer.
Injections can be given into your stomach, bottom or the outer part of your upper thigh. Generally, though, absorption is more predictable and faster from the stomach. Speak with your GP or diabetes educator to figure out the best site for you.
· Rotate the sites, so you’re not injecting into the same exact spot each time. This will prevent skin damage, which can affect absorption.
· Use a fresh needle each time. Reusing the same needle can blunt it, which makes injecting more painful.
· Dispose of your sharps safely in a designated sharps bin. You can get these from your diabetes educator, pharmacist or local council.
I’m scared of needles. How can I overcome this?
Let’s face it – no one relishes the idea of having a needle. Feeling fearful or apprehensive at the thought of injecting yourself or a loved one is completely understandable. With time, injecting will become part of your everyday routine.
Until then, try these tips – or encourage your loved one to try them – before your next injection:
SLOW your breathing Aim to breathe in for three counts, hold for three and breathe out for three.
DISTRACT yourself Sing a song or run through the alphabet in your head.
RELAX Consciously drop your shoulders and relax the muscles in your face, arms, hands and tummy.
APPLY cold Hold an ice pack briefly to the skin to help numb the site before injecting.
Store it, check it, discard it
To protect your insulin from damage or deterioration:
· Avoid storing it in areas prone to temperature extremes, such as your car, freezer or direct sunlight.
· Check the expiration date, and that the insulin looks normal.
Discard insulin that has expired, crystallised or clumped.