Insulin injection sites

Key points about insulin injection sites

  • Knowing where to inject insulin and how to vary where you inject it can help prevent lumpy skin and give you better glucose control.
  • Insulin should be injected into the fatty layer under your skin.
  • Find out how to safely inject insulin.
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Insulin should be injected into the fatty layer under your skin. If you inject it deeper into your muscle, your body will absorb it too quickly, it might not last as long and the injection is usually more painful. This can lead to low blood glucose levels.

Commonly used sites are the tummy area, thighs and buttocks – the tummy area is the preferred one. When injecting in your tummy area, it should be about 1 cm away from your belly button.

A 4 mm needle can be injected at 90 degrees without a pinch or skin fold in most people with diabetes.

Image credit: Canva

It is recommended that skin on your stomach should only be pinched and the needle injected into the skin fold at a 90 degree angle (the photo shows the angle) in the following groups of people:

  • very young children aged 6 years old or younger
  • very slim adults using the 4 mm needle
  • children using a 5 mm pen needle (however, they should be switched to a 4 mm pen needle if possible)
  • adults using a 8 mm needle.

Needles that are 12.7 mm long should be inserted at a 45 degree angle.

When injecting insulin, you need to move injection sites so your skin doesn't get lumpy. Lumpy skin is a build-up of fat under your skin caused by injecting into the same site. Lumpy skin can affect how your body absorbs insulin and can lead to different blood glucose levels. 

Also do not inject insulin on any damaged or scarred skin because this can affect the way insulin is absorbed.

Different injection sites have different absorption rates. It's best not to move injection sites daily from one part of your body to another. Instead go to different places within the area being used.

Here are some examples of how to change insulin injection sites. 

Image credit: How to use your insulin pen [PDF, 320 KB] Waitemata DHB, NZ, 2020

Do  Don't 
✔ Change injection sites with every injection.

✔ Inject at least one finger-width away from your previous injection site.

✔ If you are having 2 or more injections a day, choose a different site for your morning and afternoon doses.  

✔ When injecting 2 different insulins, inject them in different sites.

✔ Use a new needle for every injection.
✘ Don't inject deep into the muscle. Insulin should only be injected into the fatty layer under your skin.

✘ Don't inject into fatty lumps.

✘ Don't inject on damaged or scarred skin.

✘ Don't move daily from one part of your body to another, such as from your tummy area to your thigh. Instead move within the area being used.

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Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist, Healthify He Puna Waiora. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland

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