Type 1 Diabetes and Your Child: Using Insulin

Your child’s pancreas no longer makes insulin. So the missing insulin must be replaced. Insulin can’t be taken by mouth because stomach acids destroy it before it can get into the bloodstream. Instead, insulin is given by injection into the fat just under the skin. It’s not hard to learn to give insulin injections.

Types of insulin

There are three basic types of insulin. Fast-acting insulin is given before meals to cover mealtime blood sugar. Intermediate-acting insulin takes longer to work than fast-acting insulin. But it stays in the bloodstream longer. Long-acting insulin provides a small amount in the bloodstream at all times. Your child will likely use more than 1 type of insulin.

Storing insulin

Tips to storing insulin include the following: 

  • Have a backup supply of insulin stored in the refrigerator. Check the expiration dates on the bottles. If an expiration date has passed, throw the bottle away. 

  • Store insulin that is currently being used at room temperature (such as on the kitchen counter). Throw it away 28 days after opening it, even if it isn’t used up yet. 

  • Keep insulin cool. Make sure it doesn’t get above 86°F (30°C).

  • Do not freeze or shake insulin.

Insulin delivery methods

Tips for delivering insulin include the following: 

  • A needle and syringe is the most common, least expensive choice. It is covered by most insurance plans. This method allows mixing two kinds of insulin in the same syringe.

  • An insulin pen is a device that includes a needle and a cartridge of insulin. Pens make it easy to measure the insulin and prepare the shot. In public places, a pen may attract less attention and be more convenient than a traditional needle.

  • An insulin infusion pump can deliver insulin continuously in very tiny amounts. About the size of a pager, the pump is attached to the child’s body by a long, thin tube and is worn all the time. Pumps are expensive, but some insurance companies cover them. Talk to your child’s healthcare team about the benefits and risks of pump therapy for your child.

Tips that may help

Recommendations include the following: 

  • Ask your child’s healthcare team about devices that block the child’s view of the needle.

  • To keep skin healthy, change injection sites each time. Commonly used sites are the upper arms, front of thigh and fatty skin of the belly. 

  • Give yourself an injection of sterile distilled water or saline given to you by your healthcare team, using an insulin syringe. That way, you’ll have a better idea of how an insulin injection feels.