Learning to Take Insulin and Check Blood Sugar
It is important that you take insulin every day to maintain control of your blood sugar and take care of your diabetes.
Your body needs insulin to help move sugar from your blood to cells in the body that need it for energy. And to keep sugar from building up in your blood. Since your pancreas is no longer able to make insulin, or makes very little, you need to replace it with the insulin you take as medicine.
Learning to take insulin
Taking insulin (usually either by multiple daily injections, using a pump, and/or by an insulin inhaler) helps you to manage your blood sugar.
Your parents or other caregivers will help you take your insulin when you are young or first getting started with your diabetes care. But by the time you are a preteen, you should start to take over your diabetes care by giving yourself injections and testing your own blood sugar.
Or if you are using a pump, you will want to learn more about changing your pump reservoir and injection site by yourself, how to fine-tune your process for programming your pump, and giving yourself bolus insulin. You are probably already doing some or all of this meter management yourself, but you want to be sure that you can troubleshoot everything on your own. Talk to the members of your diabetes care team and go over the proper technique with them, just to be sure that you fully understand everything.
Some people have a fixed insulin dose with meals. Others vary the amount of insulin according to carbohydrate intake (called “carb counting”). Whether you have a regular fixed dose or you count carbs, you should also learn how to adjust your insulin dose based on your pre-meal blood sugar reading, type and amount of food eaten at that meal, and physical activity.
Your insulin needs will change as you grow and develop, so you will have to get your insulin plan updated regularly. This is really important during your teens, when you are growing fast and developing into a young adult.
Learning to check blood sugar
It is important to check your blood sugar frequently when you have type 1 diabetes. There are 2 main reasons:
- To understand how your daily lifestyle affects your blood sugar
- To capture any unusual highs or lows
Your diabetes care team will work with you to determine when and how often you should check your blood sugar. Some times that people with type 1 diabetes may check their blood sugar are:
- Before breakfast, lunch, dinner, and an especially big snack
- Before you go to bed
- 1 to 2 hours after breakfast, lunch, dinner, and big snacks
- Overnight (your parents or caregivers may need to help you with this one)
If you don’t already have a blood sugar meter (glucometer), or it’s time for a new one, talk to your diabetes care team about which meter would be best for you. There are a lot of different choices out there. Some of the things you will want to think about are the cost of the meter (and the strips that go with it), how accurate it is, and how easy it is to use. You probably don’t need the latest and greatest meter out there—just one that works well for you!
Once you have your meter, make sure to follow all of the instructions that come with it. Some meter companies may even offer demonstration videos online that make learning how to use them even easier.
Different meters may require slightly different ways of doing things. For instance, some meters require calibration, coding and/or testing with a fresh testing strip and control solution, while others do not. However, here are some general instructions that should help you:
- Start with good hand hygiene! Make sure that your hands are clean and dry. Even a little bit of soap or lotion can cause wrong test results
- Lance it with the lancet. Most people, at least when they are getting started, will use their fingertips for testing sites. The lancet device should be easy to use, but you should definitely read the directions before using it
- Just a drop! Gently squeeze out the amount of blood needed for your meter. Some meters require more or less blood than others
- Follow instructions. In some older meter models, blood needs to be dropped on the test strip. With most newer models, your finger should be held so that the strip can absorb the blood
- Stop the bleeding by applying firm pressure with a cotton ball or tissue
- Properly dispose of the lancet and test strips according to local waste disposal laws
- Record your results. You can use a log book, an online blood sugar tracker, or, if your meter has this feature, have the meter save and log your numbers
For more detailed information about checking your blood sugar, click here.