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Taking Insulin for Diabetes

Insulin is a hormone made in the pancreas that helps sugar (glucose) get into all the body's cells, where it's used for energy. People with type 1 diabetes and some people with type 2 diabetes need to take a manmade form of insulin as part of their treatment.

Why Do Some People Need to Take Insulin?

People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin because their body can’t make it anymore. Some people with type 2 diabetes need insulin even though their pancreas makes it because their bodies don't respond to it normally.

Without enough insulin, blood sugar levels rise, which can be harmful. Taking insulin helps keep blood sugars in a healthy range.

What Are the Types of Insulin?

There are 5 types of insulin: rapid-acting, short-acting, intermediate-acting, long-acting, and ultra long-acting.

Each one is different in:

  • how quickly it starts to work (onset)
  • when it works best (peak time)
  • how long it works (duration)

The diabetes care team will explain the kinds of insulin your child needs. They’ll make an insulin schedule to help keep glucose levels in the healthy range as much as possible.

How Do People With Diabetes Take Insulin?

Kids can get insulin by injection (with a syringe or a pre-filled pen) or with an insulin pump (a small wearable battery-powered device).

If your child needs to take insulin, the care team will tell you about insulin injections and insulin pumps. They’ll help you decide which one is best for your child.

Preparing for Blood Sugar Highs and Lows

Your child’s care plan will help you know how much insulin to give and when. The goal is to give the right amount at the right time, finding a balance between your child’s blood sugar, the food they ate, and their physical activity level.

Sometimes the calculated dose you give might be more than your child needs, making their blood sugar go too low (hypoglycemia). Or the dose might not be quite enough, making their blood sugar go too high (hyperglycemia). Everyone with diabetes, even when following their care plan carefully, will have highs and lows from time to time. That’s why your child and everyone who cares for them should know the signs of highs and lows, how to check blood sugar, and what to do.

Insulin in the Future

People with diabetes now depend on getting insulin by injection or pump. Someday there might be more options. Scientists are working hard to find new ways to give insulin. For example, an inhaled version of insulin is available for adults, but not yet for kids. Your child’s care team can help keep you updated on the newest treatments for diabetes.

Reviewed by: Tal Grunwald, MD
Date reviewed: March 2022